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With Elections Afoot, Zimbabwe Schools Again Become Political Battlegrounds


Politically tinged soccer tournaments are said to have been organized by Manicaland Provincial Governor Christopher Mushohwe, Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo and Information Minister Webster Shamu

With national elections in the offing though not scheduled, Zimbabwe Education Minister David Coltart has denounced the politicization of schools by politicians, most recently through soccer tournaments that end up becoming partisan political rallies.

Such tournaments are said to have been organized by Manicaland Provincial Governor Christopher Mushohwe, Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo and Information Minister Webster Shamu, according to sources familiar with Coltart's concerns.

The nation’s schools were battlegrounds during the 2008 elections, and many worry that they could again be caught in the crossfire or turned into headquarters for youth militia loyal to President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, as was seen in 2008.

Coltart this week said he is investigating what he called the abuse of school children in political campaigns being conducted under the guise of sports tournaments.

"We are going to take up the issue with provincial directors of the schools involved," he said. "The ministry's policy on this issue is very clear. School premises should not be used for anything other than for the purposes of learning."

For more on the plight of schools, teachers and students in a political environment that is becoming increasingly heated by the day, VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira reached out to Zimbabwe Teachers Union Chief Executive Sifiso Ndlovu and Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe General Secretary Raymond Majongwe.

Ndlovu said his union supports extra-curricular activities, but politics should be left out.

Coltart "is within his right to protect the children against any abuse," Ndlovu said.

"However, I must quickly say that schools are institutions of learning which are open to the communities. If they're coming in to aid extra-curricula activities like sports, then we welcome that gesture but we don't want to be used as levers for anybody."

Majongwe said Zimbabweans should unite to ensure that the practice of politicians using school grounds for their elections campaigns is nipped in the bud.

"We should all say they should stay away with their footballs, their soccer tournaments, their music and all," Majongwe said. "What we should be concentrating on is helping to mold the country's future leaders so they do not become tomorrow's abusers."

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