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Some Zimbabwe Teachers Embark on Nationwide Sit-in Labor Action

Zimbabwe Teachers Association Chief Executive Sifiso Ndlovu said his members have ignored the call for a sit-in strike issued by the more militant Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe

Members of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe in Harare launched a sit-down labor action Tuesday on the first day of the new school term to enforce their demand for pay increases of more than 100 percent for the lowest paid instructors.

A VOA correspondent who visited primary and secondary schools in the capital reported that most teachers were not conducting lessons on the first day of 2012's first term.

But some headmasters at schools in Bulawayo, in Matabeleland North, and Gweru, in Midlands province, said teachers were conducting lessons as usual.

The Progressive Teachers Union is demanding a salary of US$540 a month for junior teachers who are now receiving just US$253 monthly.

PTUZ Vice President Nokuthala Hlabangana said her union called the strike in spite of a meeting that has been set for Wednesday between government negotiators and representatives of civil servants.

Hlabangana said her members will continue on strike until salaries rise. "The government has no choice at all because we need better salaries," she said.

Sifiso Ndlovu, chief executive of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association, said his members have ignored the PTUZ call for a sit-down strike.

Neither Education Minister David Coltart nor Labor Minister Lucia Matibenga could be reached immediately for comment.

Elsewhere in Harare, more than 700 students of the Cold Comfort Primary School in the suburb of Warren Park were barred from entering the school by its putative new owners, leading to a protest by pupils and parents at the Ministry of Education.

Ownership of the school, which has a historical association with the liberation movement that led to the creation of Zimbabwe in 1980, has been contested since the Herentals private educational group announced its purchase of the school in 2011.

A group called Release Power was the main contestant to Herentals' title.