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DECLARE SCHOOLS PEACE ZONES DURING ELECTIONS- PTUZ

The Progressive Teacher's Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) has urged the inclusive government to declare schools peace zones during elections. This was asserted in a preliminary report of a study carried out by the union on teacher experiences with elections in Zimbabwe entitled 'Every School has a story to tell'. The report, launched on Tuesday the 7th of February 2012 by PTUZ Secretary General Mr. Raymond Majongwe at a function attended by representatives of civil society and other Teachers' unions including Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA), also recommended that laws be put in place which restrict and criminalize the use or occupation of schools for political activities.

The report was influenced by the October 2007 PTUZ Congress where a resolution was passed that (PTUZ) must document all rights abuses targeted against teachers and based on the 2008 electoral period. 'Every School has a story to tell' carries findings from a qualitative and quantitative national survey of 1086 teachers from the country's 10 administrative provinces conducted between April and June 2011. The findings presented revealed that teachers are both victims and witnesses of violence.

During the launch, Mr. Majongwe noted that in Zimbabwe, violence against teachers is rampant although there is limited documentation. The report findings indicated that 79% of teachers interviewed were reportedly forced to attend political meetings while 77% suffered threats and 41% reported some form of extortion. It was also revealed that 33% of teachers who participated in the study were assaulted, 31% tortured while 30% were disqualified from being electoral officers.  Additionally, the report indicated that in the Presidential re-run held in June 2008 and boycotted by Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, 58% of respondents reported that they were forced to vote for a particular party because of violence or threatened, some were even ordered to declare themselves, their family members and maids illiterate so that they could be assisted to vote. This, according to the PTUZ, is an indication of the extent to which teachers were victimized in the 2008 elections.

Mr. Oswald Madziva, the Coordinator of PTUZ said during the launch,

"It is time for PTUZ to start documenting its findings about victimization of teachers in Zimbabwe which could assist in determining the environment needed during election time €. The President of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association Mr. Matongo said that "PTUZ has helped a lot in the fight against victimization of teachers and with this document (the report) we can now petition our struggle against victimization. €

The report also recommended the development of monitoring mechanisms to detect early warning signs of attacks on teachers by both civic society and teacher unions, the introduction of civic education in the primary and secondary's school curriculum which should promote national cohesion and the promotion of peace and tolerance. Mr. Majongwe concluded by highlighting that this report would be presented to Parliament, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and United Nations and local and regional civil society organizations among other key stakeholders.

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