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Striking Zimbabwe Teachers Defy Directive to Return to Work

Striking Zimbabwean teachers Monday defied an ultimatum by a top education official who threatened them with dismissal if they failed to show up for work this week.

Education Ministry Permanent Secretary Stephen Mahere ordered teachers back to work after the government promised to pay part of their wages in grocery vouchers and the rest in the Zimbabwean dollar. But unions representing the teachers turned down the offer, reiterating their demand for a monthly salary for starting teachers of US$2,200.

The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe said teachers were prepared to be sacked by the ministry rather than return to work.

Acting Chief Executive Officer Sifiso Ndlovu of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that teachers will only go back to work if the government meets their demands.

Classrooms in the high density suburbs or townships of the Midlands capital of Gweru were mostly empty Monday morning as teachers stayed home despite the government ultimatum to report for duty or be sacked, correspondent Taurai Shava reported.

Elsewhere, dozens of students from Midlands State University were injured when police broke up a campus demonstration against hard currency fees.

National Spokesman Blessing Vava of the Zimbabwe National Students Union told reporter Chris Gande of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that three student leaders were severely beaten then taken into police custody.

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