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Zimbabwe Schools Finally Reopen, But Many Teachers Fail To Appear

Schools across Zimbabwe reopened on Monday based on a loose agreement between unions representing formerly striking teachers and the country's new unity government - but many teachers failed to show up because they could not cash government pay vouchers.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti recently announced that the government would give teachers and other public employees vouchers redeemable for US$100 in banks, but there have been some hitches in the program as banks ran out of cash to honor the vouchers. Teachers working in the country's rural areas also had trouble reaching financial institutions to cash them.

The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, the largest teachers union in the country, said about half of its members, mostly in schools in cities and towns, reported for duty, whereas many in rural areas who did not have money to pay transport costs stayed home.

Progressive Teachers Union President Takavafira Zhou told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that his members, many of whom fled classrooms during last year’s wave of post-election political violence, are also frustrated with how local education officers treat them.

Acting Chief Executive Officer Sifiso Ndlovu of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association, formerly perceived to be aligned with government though hard times have strained that relationship, said most of his members have not been able to cash the US$100 vouchers.

Ndlovu said ZIMTA will seek a meeting with Education Minister David Coltart, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.

Finance Minister Biti is secretary general of the MDC formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who founded the former opposition party in 1999.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...