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Political violence and intimidation against teachers in Zimbabwe
Research and Advocacy Unit [RAU] & Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe [PTUZ]
May 23, 2012

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Executive Summary

This report is a follow-up of a report published earlier in February titled, "Every School has a Story to Tell: Teachers experience with elections in Zimbabwe". Whilst the first report is largely given in summary form, recording the violations that teachers have experienced since 2000, this present report gives deeper understanding to the violations and puts them in a global perspective. The report feeds into a broad campaign to promote the Right to Education by calling for the criminalisation of attacks on education and educational institutions. The report bridges the gap and provides knowledge of the existence and extent of attacks on education in Zimbabwe.

One of the key observations is that Zimbabwe, though not in a state of war, is listed amongst 9 countries that are leading in the attack on education. This is largely due to the fact that during every election since 2000, the country resembles a state of war as a result of state-sponsored violence. But the attacks on education and militarisation of educational institutions have escaped the attention they deserve and have only reported under general human rights violations. The extent of the continued occurrence of attacks on education contradicts the claims of high literacy rate figures Zimbabwe has recorded.

Importantly, the two reports lay a strong foundation for further research to aid the campaign to declare schools as safe zones for peace. These areas in need of further investigation would include specific aspects of the military involvement in education and political use.

Some of the key findings of the report include the following;

  • The age group of the teachers had an effect of whether teachers experienced or witnessed violence. The younger the teachers, the more prone they were to attacks. 18% of the sample was under the age of 30 and was unlikely to disclose their political or trade union affiliation because of the associated dangers.
  • Affiliation to a trade union also had a bearing on whether one was attacked. 66% of the respondents refused to disclose their trade union affiliation as well as their political party affiliation. It is most likely that those associated with a trade union recorded high incidences of attack.
  • The study also established that 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 violence on the society as violence breeds violence.
  • Since schools are major focal points for community activities, and mostly community enhancing activities, this abuse of school facilities is extremely serious, especially, as was pointed out above, where children can be exposed to very damaging events. From the current data it is not possible to determine whether the bases identified were at schools or not: in the design of the study, it was felt to be too threatening to ask this question of the teachers.
  • 242 teachers stated that there was a base in their area, with bases mentioned in 46 Districts within Zimbabwe. 122 teachers could identify the commander by name, and the most important observation is that the bases fell under the command of officers with military background.

The report concludes with a number of recommendations as follows:

1. The Government of Zimbabwe must immediately declare schools as zones of peace and as such enact laws that restrict and criminalise the use or occupation of schools for political activities, especially during the electoral period.

2. Civic society and teacher unions must develop monitoring systems to detect early warning systems of attacks on education and to report political disturbances in schools in compliance with UN Resolution No. 1612 with additional modifications relevant to the situation in Zimbabwe.

3. The Ministry of Education in conjunction with critical stakeholders like the police, parents and teacher unions must set up school protection committees so that social services rendered by schools are not interrupted during times of conflict like elections

4. The Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) must actively investigate all reports involving political violence and intimidation against teachers, and at schools.

5. The government must uphold strictly provisions of paragraph 20 to the First Schedule of Statutory Instrument 1 of 2000 (Public Service Regulations, 2000) and clauses 79, 80 and 81 of the ILO/UNESCO Recommendations concerning the Status of Teachers to negate the current insistence on teachers being compelled to support only one political party.

6. The Ministry of Education must introduce civic education in the primary and secondary school curriculum which promotes national cohesion, peace and tolerance;

7. The process of national healing, if ever 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.

8. Overall compliance with the spirit and letter of the GPA is strongly recommended in order to curb on institutionalised violence.

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