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Page last updated at 22:46 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Zimbabwe teachers to end strike

Children in a classroom in Zimbabwe (28/01/2009)
The government promised to appeal for overseas aid for schools

Teachers in Zimbabwe have agreed to end their strike after the government promised to review salaries, and to appeal for substantial aid for schools.

The teachers had been demanding their salaries in foreign currency to get around Zimbabwe's massive inflation.

But they said the new Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had been willing to listen to their grievances.

New Education Minister David Coltart said he had asked for more than $450m (310m) in overseas aid for schools.

"My single-minded goal is to get the schools reopened and teachers back at work," Mr Coltard told the London-based Short Wave Africa independent radio station.

He said the package offered to teachers included an amnesty for any who feared reprisals or dismissal for not having gone to work.

"I am very sympathetic to the fact that many of the teachers who didn't report for duty simply couldn't, because they didn't even have enough money for the bus fare," he said.

Regional standards

Tendai Chikoore, president of the Zimbabwe Teachers' Association, told AFP news agency members of the union had "agreed to go back to work solely on the good will shown by the government".

But he said the union was still demanding that teachers' salaries must match those of other teachers in the region, a view echoed by the president of the Progressive Teachers' Union, Takavafira Zhou.

A woman holding Zimbabwean dollar notes
Hyperinflation has left Zimbabwe's currency almost worthless

"We also agreed that after three months, teachers' salaries must be reviewed to meet regional standards of 15,000 South African rand[$1,500; 1,035] a month," said Mr Zhou.

Zimbabwe has the world's highest official inflation rate - estimated by some economists at 10 sextillion per cent - which has left the its currency all but worthless.

Earlier this month, the central bank knocked 12 zeros off the local currency - reducing one trillion dollars to one dollar.

The country's new Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, announced last week that soldiers and civil servants were to be paid in US dollars to help revive the shattered economy.

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