Hundreds of Zimbabwean teachers demanding better pay stayed at home on Monday, as schools reopened after six months of coronavirus restrictions.
At the Warren Park High School in a western working-class suburb of Harare, dozens of students waited for their teachers in vain at an unfinished school building.
Some wore face masks. A 20-litre bucket of hand sanitiser was placed at the school entrance.
At another government school in the upper-class Avondale district, no teachers were in sight and primary pupils played outside classrooms.
Teachers “did not turn up for duty,” Raymond Majongwe, secretary-general of one of the country’s largest unions, the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, told AFP.
Majongwe said teachers battle to “survive” and that they can’t even afford to send their own children to school.
Teachers’ salaries, he said, have been heavily eroded by inflation — which stands at over 700 percent — to an average equivalent of $40 a month, down from $550 in October 2018.
“Forty dollars is an insult. Teachers have lost their ranking in society. It’s actually an insult to be a teacher. It’s a curse,” he said.
Zimbabwe is being buffeted by its worst economic crisis in over a decade and is grappling with hyperinflation.