Zimbabwe minister woos teachers back into school

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Zimbabwean schools that have been closed since December last year will finally open this coming week. The Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Senator David Coltart told the media that schools will be opening on Monday after a deal was struck between the ministry and the teacher’s unions.

Teachers agreed to return to work and Government agreed to boost the existing teaching force with teachers who retired between January 2007 and December 2008 as a result of political pressure and poor working conditions. “We have also given amnesty to teachers who had resigned for political and economic reasons to report for duty on Monday,” David Coltart told the media.

Meanwhile the Minister has said US$438 is needed to stabilise the education
sector. “The ideal amount of money we need is US$438million, and that is just for the first six months. Now in the current economic climate and in the context of world recession that is a completely unattainable figure. So we have to cut it. So we are hoping to raise US$80million,” he told a radio station.

On Monday the minister held a marathon meeting with representatives of teachers unions, to discuss issues concerning the profession and the education sector. The teachers had been demanding wages of US$2 300 a month, which a lot of people felt, was too much and had no precedent in the region.

The minister said his ministry would continue to work hard to address the challenges faced by teachers in their profession. “We have committed ourselves that we will do all that we can to address the plight of teachers. Salary negotiations will continue while pupils are back in classrooms. However, it was impossible to come up with a figure because we are still consulting donors and the Government. Once figures are available, we will then give them to teachers’ unions for discussion,” he said.

Meanwhile the minister was set to meet with representatives of donor organisations by 11 am on Monday and try to secure a package to pay teacher’s salaries and funds to resuscitate education.

Coltart said UNICEF was helping to put donor organisations and governments in contact with the Zimbabwean officials but it is yet unclear where the money might come from.

The minister said teachers account for almost two thirds of all civil servants in Zimbabwe and paying teachers just US$100 will cost his ministry US$8million for just one month.

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