A new school term began on Tuesday in Zimbabwe without teachers in many classrooms as instructors opted to stay at home until the government met their demands for payment in hard currency, officials of the country's two main teachers unions said.
At some schools headmasters told children to go home for lack of teachers, and elsewhere children could be seen roaming school grounds without supervision.
Teachers in the state school system are demanding a base salary of US$2,200 a month to be paid retroactively to Jan. 1.
Some public schools have asked authorities to let them set fees in hard currency, but are still waiting for a decision from the cabinet on this. In theory, primary education is free, but in practice parents must pay appreciable fees under one guise or another.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe President Takavafira Zhou told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that teachers will only go back to work when their compensation demands have been met by the government.
The government-aligned Zimbabwe Teachers Association confirmed that its members did not report for duty on Tuesday, saying their salaries did not cover transport costs.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association Acting Chief Executive Officer Sifiso Ndlovu denied teachers were striking, but said their pay demands had to be met before they'd return to work.