Exiled by Mugabe, eaten by a lion. (01-03-07)

Who is to blame for teacher's death?
Woman forced into exile by low pay, poor working conditions and harassment, says family
MWENEZI - Veronica Chauke from Mwenezi district, south of Masvingo, is dead. Her dreams are unfulfilled. After seven years as a secondary

science teacher in Zimbabwe, her dream was to cross the Limpopo and start a new life in South Africa . A lion devoured her in a game park last week, shortly after she had crossed the Limpopo.
Her sister Talent witnessed her gruesome death. A family member, Trust Chauke, said “in a state of bewilderment, Talent was hit by a car and died at the spot… It is sad my sisters died … they are all no more and I am still (trying) to believing this.
“Both were working as teachers here in Mwenezi. A friend who was here for holiday invited Veronica to South Africa where she said there are better teaching conditions and job opportunities … this was the end of it,” he said, tears rolling down his cheeks.
“This should be attributed to the government’s bad economic and political policies. In Zimbabwe, teachers and other civil servants are leaving on daily basis. Some are dying because of stress-related diseases, they can afford to buy nothing”.
According to South African government estimates, there are about 10 000 qualified Zimbabwean teachers in the country, but not all are working in their field of expertise. Among them are about 4 000 qualified maths and science teachers welcomed by South African education Minister Naledi Pandor.
Mlamuli Nkomo, a trained Zimbabwean teacher and director of Mthwakazi Forum which coordinates all exiled Zimbabwean organisations in South Africa said, “Teachers should lead their society out of ignorance but this can happen only if they are given the respect that Mugabe’s tyrannical regime denies them.
“Teachers in Zimbabwe have come to the conclusion that education is not a priority on the Mugabe government agenda. They are a target of government hate speech, especially from the education minister who has endorsed military structures in schools to suppress teachers complaining about working conditions and salaries, and they are constantly under the surveillance of the state agents who work with party officials to get rid of perceived anti-government educators.”
Aenias Chigwedere, Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, this week said the government was aware of “political machinations” by teachers’ unions and the opposition “to destabilise the education sector”.
“This is a political issue by the PTUZ. Teachers are going about with their business of teaching. This organisation is pursuing a political agenda,” said Chigwedere.
There are two major teacher unions in Zimbabwe : the pro-government Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) and the revolutionary Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ).
Zimta draws its members mainly from war veterans, PTUZ draws its members mainly from graduate teachers at high school and is a member of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions which helped form the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
PTUZ-South Africa Charter chairman, Doctor Ncube, said they were compiling a database of exiled Zimbabwean teachers and more than 95% of teachers in Johannesburg’s inner city “are Zimbabweans, doing very well”.
Many had entered the country illegally and were finding it tricky to be evaluated with South Africa Council of Educators (SACE). Though his office is working to help them back into their profession, most are employed in menial jobs in construction, catering and security industries where they are earning less that R100 per month.
Ncube said, “At the moment we don’t have a database of how many have been offered jobs by the government as it is difficult for us to trace who is employed by whom. But I understand that many Zimbabweans registered with us are now working in government schools in Mpumalanga province and other rural areas.
“We have more than 1,500 members registered with us, many are visiting our offices for assistance and we support them. As of now more than 800 have been issued with SACE certificates.
The crisis is also hitting universities. A former lecturer, who is now working for a university in Pretoria, said a number of lecturers were leaving for neighbouring countries. “More than 25 senior lecturers have left since December last year. Lecturers are leaving as they feel they are poorly paid. They are heading to countries such as South Africa and Namibia where they are in great demand,” he said, asking to remain anonymous.
Felix Moyo, director of information and public relations at University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo, confirmed that 17 lecturers had resigned, adding “but it is not only lecturers who have resigned – technicians, accountants and non-academic staff have also resigned.”.
Lectures and teachers are among the lowest paid civil servants in Zimbabwe, with the highest-paid lecturer at a government university paid Z$300 00 (about R300) per month and a highly paid teacher Z$140 000 (about R150). The lowest paid teacher takes home about Z$84 000 (about R70) a month.
The teachers are demanding salaries of Z$540 000 a month and transport and housing allowances of $100 000 and $150 000 respectively. They also want to be exempt them from paying school fees for their own children.

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