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Wide Participation by Zimbabwean Teachers Reported in New Schools Strike

Many of Zimbabwe's public primary and secondary schools were idled Thursday on the second day of a teachers strike called by the Zimbabwe Teachers Association, which is demanding a significant increase in monthly compensation for its members, though the rival Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe was not officially supporting the strike.

Sources in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare said some teachers belonging to the PTUZ were also absent from classrooms. PTUZ officials said most of their members were on the job as usual, but acknowledged that some might have followed the ZIMTA strike call.

Union officials denied, however, that their membership was divided over the leadership call for members to remain on the job in the nation's schools.

Sources among the PTUZ rank and file said that some members are accusing the leaders of being too close to the national unity government led by President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, whose career began as a labor organizer.

The PTUZ said it has invited Education Minister David Coltart and Finance Minister Tendai Biti to address teachers in the capital on Friday. The two ministers sought to meet late Tuesday with officials of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association who did not show up.

PTUZ General Secretary Raymond Majongwe told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that he and his fellow union leaders will confer after teachers in Harare have met with the ministers.

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