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Ministers Meet With Teacher Representatives, But Strike Appears in Offing

Many of Zimbabwe's teachers seemed likely to be absent from classrooms on Wednesday as the country's largest association representing instructors failed to show up for a meeting called Tuesday by Education Minister David Coltart and Finance Minister Tendai Biti.

The two ministers were hoping to stave off a strike called for Wednesday, when schools are scheduled to reopen for a new term, by the Zimbabwe Teachers Association.

Coltart and Biti met late Tuesday with representatives of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe and the Teachers Union of Zimbabwe. But the Zimbabwe Teachers Association is the largest representative organization, particularly in the country's rural areas.

Sources who attended the meeting said Biti offered proof that the government does not have funds to increase teacher salaries, and asked for patience on the part of all civil servants whose wages now account for 70% of the country's thin budget.

Biti said funds were not forthcoming from international donors to help meet their demands.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe General Secretary Raymond Majongwe said a strike at this point would be counterproductive, urging his members to stay on the job.

But Zimbabwe Teachers Association Secretary General Richard Gundani told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the strike Wednesday by his members will go ahead as planned.

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