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Zimbabwe Education Minister, Backed by Donors, Fends Off Teacher Strike

Zimbabwean Education Minister David Coltart on Monday staved off a strike by teachers on the eve of a new school term with help from international donors including the United Nations Children's Fund, which promised to appeal for funding for underpaid instructors.

Officials of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association had threatened to launch a new strike if the government did not review the monthly US$100 paid to teachers like other civil servants.

When introduced in March by the unity government installed in mid-February, the sum was intended to be a supplement to public service salaries paid in Zimbabwean dollars. But the government has since abandoned all use of the worthless national currency.

Coltart said UNICEF promised to launch an appeal by month's end through the office of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for funds to help increase Zimbabwean teacher salaries.

The meeting was attended by European Union and Swedish Development Agency officials who said they wanted to help but as a matter of policy were monitoring political conditions.

Coltart told told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he has a five-point plan to rescue the education sector, but warned the initiative is only short-term.

Secretary General Richard Gundani of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association said his members were touched by the good will demonstrated by the education minister and international donors and would review the situation at a later date.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...