70,000 teachers fled Zimbabwe in eight years By KITSEPILE NYATHI in Harare | Wednesday, December 12  2012 at  14:30

Teachers at a seminar. They constitute a key plank of any country's professionals. Photo | FILE 

Zimbabwe lost at least 70,000 trained teachers in eight years as professionals fled an economic meltdown and political violence.

A report released by a local think tank - the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) - says the figures show the number of teachers who left the country between 2000 and 2008 at the height of the political crisis in the country.

The crisis was precipitated by a violent land redistribution programme led by President Robert Mugabe and a political crisis that ended with a power sharing agreement in 2008.

RAU said the mass exodus of teachers mainly to neighbouring South Africa and Botswana led to the closure of 82 per cent of schools in farming areas.

The researches expressed fears insecurity had returned to haunt teachers especially in rural areas as Zimbabwe geared for elections President Mugabe wants held by March next year.

“The attacks, it has been established, have been politically motivated, and research has revealed that violence is state-sponsored, or at least state-condoned,” the researchers said in a report made available on Wednesday.

“Children not only had their education disrupted but also experienced politically-motivated intimidation and witnessed political violence.

“However, violence in schools and against teachers was not confined to commercial farms, but was widespread," the report says.

“Since 2000, Zimbabwe has lost nearly 70,000 trained teachers mainly to neighbouring South Africa, the reasons were associated with the state of the economy, but politically-motivated violence against teachers was also an important factor,” the report adds.

The researchers said Zimbabwe is in the league of countries such as Iraq, Palestine, Cote d'Ivoire, and Burma where attacks on educators were regular.

About 4,000 white commercial farmers were violently pushed out of their farms during the agrarian reforms that were accompanied by violence.

Thousands of farm workers were also left stranded as President Mugabe’s supporters moved into the commercial farms.

“Many commercial farms had primary schools for the children of their work forces, and these schools (and especially their teachers) became victims of political violence and intimidation,” the report says.

“One study estimated that 82 percent of the schools on farms had been closed or downsized.”

The report added that three quarters of farm workers and school children were forced to attend political meetings.

Zimbabwean human rights groups last month said they feared a crackdown on rights activists ahead of a referendum on the new constitution and next year’s elections.