TEACHERS’ unions have expressed concern over the escalation of political violence, saying they now feared for the safety of their members, as the violence, such as that experienced during the 2008 presidential election rerun, could degenerate when rural educationists were mostly targeted by mainly Zanu PF activists.
By NQOBANI NDLOVU
Teachers have borne the brunt of political violence in previous elections, with some being chased away from their schools on charges of supporting opposition parties, disrupting learning activities in the process.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said they were concerned over the safety of teachers, as the 2018 elections beckon, adding this was the reason they had launched a “Safe Schools” campaign.
“As the nation heads towards the highly-contested 2018 election, both in Zanu PF and outside, the political temperatures are already rising for teachers in rural outposts,” he said.
“Since the opening of the new term, we have received dozens of reports of political activities on schools which are ultra vires Section 81 (h) of the Constitution.
“In this light, we are launching a Safe Schools campaign, which will run until December 2018. The key objective is to ensure that learning and teachers’ safety are not compromised before, during and after elections.”
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said the union feared the 2018 polls would be “the most violent”, before urging educators to avoid participating in “partisan politics”.
“We have been at the receiving end of brute violence since 2000, in 2008, we lost eight of our members to violence. We always urge our members not to participate in partisan politics,” Majongwe said yesterday..
“We are not at all going to run away from what we have said. We are telling our members not to be naïve, not to participate in blind partisan politics. The year 2018 promises a very violent election and we are saying, why sacrifice your lives? Don’t be too excited, you have no reason to.”
A 2012 report by the Research and Advocacy Unit said at least 70 000 teachers fled to neighbouring countries due to political violence that rocked the country between 2000 and 2008.
The report, titled Fragility And Education In Zimbabwe: Assessing The Impact Of Violence On Education, by Lloyd Pswarayi and Tony Reeler, showed that the education sector was under siege during elections.
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Union chief executive officer Sifiso Sibanda said while his organisation had not received reports of rights violations targeting teachers, the union was worried over the safety of teachers in any election.
“So far, we have not received or confirmed reports of threats against our members, neither have our members have reported victimisation. So far, the country is moving in a peaceful direction and we want to encourage that,” he said.
“However, should there be any rights violations as we go for the elections, we will definitely speak out.”