By Tatenda Dewa
Most non-urban schools were either on go slow or recorded low teacher turnouts on the first day of planned industrial action to protest delayed and poor salaries, according to the Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (RTUZ).
Obert Masaraure, the RTUZ president, told Nehanda Radio that most of the schools across the provinces recorded turnouts below 10 percent despite alleged intimidation by Zanu PF militias and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) agents.
A brief phone survey by Nehanda Radio in Mashonaland West also confirmed that rural teachers generally stayed away.
In Matabeleland South, said Masaraure, RTUZ mobile teams reported an average 6 percent turnout by teachers.
Some schools in the province, among them Esikhoveni, were shut down as there were no teachers at all and students had to return home, while in other cases, the school heads and a few teachers turned up to coordinate lessons.
Manicaland province had an overall 10 percent teacher turnout, said Masaraure, while some headmasters were summoned to the district education office for briefings that were reportedly attended by CIO agents.
“In Chipinge, for example, headmasters were summoned and instructed to supply the names of teachers who had not reported for work,” said Masaraure.
Mashonaland West recorded slightly above 15 percent turnout of teachers and, in Hurungwe West, teachers who were carrying out surveys to determine the impact of the strike were forced to abandon their exercise by village-based militias.
The ruling Zanu PF has for a long time claimed rural constituencies as its stronghold and teachers have been victimised for perceived alignment with the opposition.
In Mashonaland East, there was a below 10 percent turnout and some schools which had commenced mid-year examinations abandoned the tests.
“Unidentified people moving in Ford Rangers went around the schools forcing teachers to go back to work, saying they would deal with perceived rebels during the 2018 general election period,” added the RTUZ president.
Mashonaland Central had the highest turnout of 27 percent due to perceived fear of victimisation even though most teachers were on a go slow.
The province remains a Zanu PF bastion and has recorded some of the highest ballots for the ruling party in past elections.
“In the Midlands provinces, our survey shows that 12 percent of the teachers reported for duty. Mberengwa was the worst affected and students had to go back home, while in Silobela (Lower Gweru), it was reported that teachers chose to go gold panning instead,” said Masaraure.
Masvingo recorded the second highest attendance of teachers at 19 percent but schools like Magudu and Musakavinja were shut down completely.
“Our bosses at the district and regional offices may not come out openly in support of the strike, but they are encouraging it because they are also affected,” said a teacher from Zowa district in Mashonaland West who declined being named. Nehanda Radio