Over 800 members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise took to the streets of Bulawayo at midday today to peacefully protest about the state of education in Zimbabwe. Five groups started separately and converged on Mhlahlandlela Government complex to hand over the WOZA report on the education system in Zimbabwe entitled – Looking Back to look Forward. The report covers recommendations and a list of demands that parents want addressed by the Minister of Education, Senator David Coltart. Before they could hand over the report however, the peaceful group was dispersed by at least 12 police officers, including high-ranking officers. No arrests have been reported to date but WOZA leaders are still verifying whether everyone returned safely to their homes.
The theme of the protest was –‘real schools with real teachers for a real education’. Education has been a long-term mobilisation issue for WOZA. As the new school year begins, many members have reported that their children were turned away at the gates of schools yesterday on the first day of term. Reasons given include account arrears and non-payment of the US$5 required for last year’s report card. One school even turned away children for non-payment of a ‘vandalising day’, a ZAR 10 contribution.
Given the general unhappiness of parents at the state of education in Zimbabwe, support for the peaceful march from bystanders was high. Observers reported that many bystanders joined the group at Mhlahlandlela. One man who joined the demonstration was overheard saying that he would be prepared to be arrested because the issue of education is so close to his heart. Uniformed police officers also asked members as they were dispersing why they had stopped singing and encouraged them to continue with their songs of protest. The songs included the words, “our children are crying for education”.
Attempts to hand in the report to the Regional Director for Education were unsuccessful as apparently the position in Matabeleland has not been filled. Security guards at the gate of the government complex told the protestors to go to Harare and speak directly to the Minister of Education. Copies of the newsletter were left with the guards instead.
The demands included in the report include:
Teachers must produce quality teaching and show that they are committed to the learning of all their pupils equally.
Education authorities must utilise the vehicles that are being purchased to supervise teachers and demand more discipline in schools.
Teachers must stop demanding top-ups from parents and the Ministry must prohibit this practice.
The Ministry must work to produce a new and relevant curriculum as recommended.
Parents will do their best to pay reasonable fees set by Ministry and levies set by properly constituted and democratic parents meetings at the beginning of each year – we will not accept any fee or levy changes in 2010.
The full education report and the text of the newsletter can be found below.