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'Declare Zimbabwe Schools Peace Zones'

Education Minister David Coltart agrees with calls by civic organizations to declare all schools as so-called peace zones during and after elections.

In a report compiled by the Research and Advocacy Unit titled ‘Fragility and Education in Zimbabwe: Assessing the impact of violence on education’, calls were made to end the widening impact in schools.

The report found that education had been both politicized and militarized, and violent attacks of teachers and exposure of pupils to violence have historically been prevalent during elections.

The unit reports that some 70,000 teachers fled the country before 2008 after being directly targeted in violence surrounding political campaigns and events.

Coltart said his ministry disputes that figure, placing the number of teachers at around 20,000 during the height of elections.

However, he said his ministry has been working to implement crucial directives to make schools neutral and peaceful going forward.

"We cannot allow that situation to continue. We can't allow it to happen again next year as we go towards an election and that’s why I am concerned with sentiments expressed in that report," said Coltart.

The Ministry of Education banned political and military rallies on school grounds, as officials said this undermines teaching and learning. But calls by the ministry, which are not under law, have been ignored.

Teachers’ unions have reported various violent incidents at education centres and continuing threats on school grounds.
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