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Strikes in Zimbabwe Force Postponement of Final Exams - 2002-11-08


Strikes are taking place in many parts of Zimbabwe, as unions and the government are finding it impossible to agree on wage increases. Among the victims of the labor unrest are students at Zimbabwe's main university who have to postpone end of year exams until March.

The vice chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe, Graham Hill, announced Wednesday that there will be no end of year examinations because of the strike by lecturers.

They are refusing to teach because they say they are paid so poorly.

The university, once regarded as the best in the region, has declined in recent years. Several courses are no longer available because many lecturers have left and have not been replaced.

Those most affected by the strike are hundreds of students who had hoped to graduate this year.

Most of the country's political leaders send their children to universities in South Africa, Britain or the United States because of the falling standards at the university.

Meanwhile, engineers at the national airline, Air Zimbabwe, are in their eighth week of a strike over wages.

The airline has to send its small fleet for servicing and repairs to South Africa.

Even if Air Zimbabwe fires the engineers, it knows they cannot be replaced because, as in every other sphere of Zimbabwe's business life, so many engineers have left the country.

Air Zimbabwe is the only airline that accepts fares paid in the local currency, which has plummeted in value in the last months. It now costs more than one million Zimbabwe dollars, about $1,000 (U.S.), for a round-trip ticket to London.

In addition to the strikes by teachers and airline engineers, railway workers, government doctors and other health professionals have also struck this year.

With inflation predicted to hit more than 150 percent by year's end, labor analysts say worker unrest is likely to escalate.

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