Teachers call for law to protect schools

A damning report recently released by the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe has called for laws to restrict and criminalise the use of schools for political activities, especially during election time.

The report, released this month entitled ‘Political violence and intimidation against teachers in Zimbabwe’, was prepared for PTUZ by Research and Advocacy Unit.

Since the formation of the MDC party in 1999, there have been five elections and several by-elections, which were all marred by serious incidences of politically motivated violence especially against members of the opposition.

Teachers, mostly from rural areas, were subsequently the main targets as Zanu (PF), which was struggling to regain its waning support, perceived teachers to be opinion leaders who could influence people in their communities to vote for the MDC.

The violence marked by torture, assault, property destruction or theft, indecent assault, sexual violence, threats, disappearance, extortion and abduction torture, impacted heavily on the education system as many teachers fled, leaving rural school with a massive teacher shortage.

“Most violations that took place against teachers did so during school hours, or at the very least in full view of school children. This has long term effects on society as violence breeds violence,” reads the report.

Apart from the attack on teachers, the report also established that there was a heavy presence of torture bases in schools in 46 districts around Zimbabwe. RAU interviewed 1,200 teachers, randomly selected from schools in all provinces.

Of the respondents, 122 said they could identify by name the militia commanders who ran the torture bases.

“The most important observation is that the bases fell under the command of officers with military backgrounds,” says the report.

PTUZ urged the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, a body tasked to monitor the implementation of the a 2008 agreement between the two MDC formations and Zanu (PF) that resulted in the establishment of the Government of National Unity, to actively investigate all reports involving political violence and intimidation against teachers and at schools.

JOMIC has been criticised as toothless and incapable of enforcing the implementation of the GPA in the wake of a recurrence of political violence. National healing and reintegration remains a task yet to be accomplished perpetrators of violence still walk scot-free.

“The process of national healing, if it is ever going to take off meaningfully, should have a thematic area dealing with the education sector in order to restore the social bond between teachers and communities which has been weakened by recurrent election violence and politicisation of the public service,” suggests the report.

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