JITTERY authorities yesterday launched a manhunt for a Njube High School teacher whom they allege incited students to demonstrate against the recent school fees hike and the poor salaries earned by their teachers, the Daily News reports.
This comes as militant teachers’ unions have called for more such demonstrations — which they claim will force the government to act on their dire plight and the country’s worsening economic rot.
Following Monday’s extraordinary protests by the students in the second city, it emerged yesterday that the government had dispatched police and intelligence operatives there to look into the surprise demonstration.
Police also confirmed that they had launched a manhunt for Brian Mutsiba, a biology teacher at the school for having allegedly incited students to hold their demo.
Authorities accused Mutsiba — a former prisons officer — of having mobilised 153 Form 1, Form 3 and Form 6 learners to protest against the unavailability of teachers and the recent fees hike.
“We are investigating the case of a teacher who is alleged to have taken manila, written messages and accompanied the students on a demonstration.
“We have not yet apprehended the suspect, but we are confident that he will be arrested soon,” police national spokesperson Paul Nyathi told the Daily News.
Mutsiba is also alleged to have removed President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s portrait from the staff room before taking down the Zimbabwe flag from its mast at the school.
He is also alleged to have then exited the school gate with the students that he had mobilised for the march, which police say was not sanctioned.
All this comes after residents of Njube suburb were greeted by the unusual scenes of students holding a protest over the unavailability of their teachers and the hiked school fees on Monday.
The learners marched from the high density suburb to a service station in Entumbane, before they were intercepted and ordered to go back to school.
The students later told the Daily News that they had mounted the protest because they were not happy with the recent school fees increases — which went up from $92 to $492 a term.
During their march, the learners waved placards in which they asked for help from the representative of the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) in the country.
Others hoisted a Zimbabwe flag together with Mnangagwa’s official portrait — while singing: “We do not like what you are doing”.
At one point, the students knelt down as they sang Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrica (God bless Africa), before shouting the slogan Amatitsha ngawethu (Teachers belong to us).
The students also claimed that their teachers had deserted classes to harvest amacimbi (mopani worms) on the outskirts of Bulawayo because they could not make ends meet.
Meanwhile, teachers have welcomed Monday’s demonstration by the Njube High School students.
The secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta), Tapson Sibanda, said the students’ concerns were “very genuine” and commended them for asserting their rights in a non-violent manner.
“We see nothing wrong in learners expressing their concerns. They need to be listened to.
“As for the teacher who is said to have instigated the demonstration, Zimta is still making its investigation before it can comment,” Sibanda told the Daily News.
The secretary-general of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), Raymond Majongwe, also backed the unprecedented demonstration which he said “was not a crime”.
“It is not a crime to be in solidarity with suffering exploited citizens. If the government continues to ignore this Njube case, many more such demonstrations might follow.
“Government must respond to the issues teachers are raising. Witch-hunts, threats and intimidation are not a solution,” he said.