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Coltart warns politicians against abusing pupils

POLITICIANS must stop ordering the closure of schools and forcing pupils to attend political rallies ahead of this year’s harmonised elections.

REPORT BY MUSA DUBE

The Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture David Coltart last week said abuse of teachers and pupils by politicians ahead of major elections was rampant, particularly in the country’s rural areas.

They are usually threatened with violence or death if they fail to attend the political campaigns.

Coltart said the move was tantamount to child abuse.

“Schools should be politically neutral places and children should not be drawn into partisan political activities,” he said.

The Education minister said politicians must stop disturbing school children from carrying out their academic work.

“I would strongly condemn the action where schools are taken to political gatherings,” said Coltart. “Parties should leave them [pupils] to learn.”

During the violent 2008 elections, Zanu PF allegedly forced the closure of schools to make sure that pupils and their teachers attend the party’s meetings. This was against the will of the pupils or their parents.

Some schools, especially in rural areas, were turned into Zanu PF “bases”, where all those who did not support the party or President Robert Mugabe were tortured.

In 2008, some teachers fled their schools and sought refuge in urban areas fearing for their lives.

MDC-T claims that at least 200 of its supporters were killed by Zanu PF youth militia and secret security agents in the past elections as they tried to secure a victory for Mugabe.

Coltart also condemned situations where political campaigns are conducted under the guise of sports tournaments.

“Schools should be used for educational purposes only and not partisan political activities,” he said.

The country is set to hold harmonised elections next month and political parties have already started campaigning.

Mugabe had unilaterally proclaimed July 31 this year as the date for the elections but was advised by Sadc to apply at the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) so that the polls can be extended by at least two weeks.

Last week, the ConCourt postponed the hearing of the case indefinitely.

Major political parties in the country — including MDC-T and MDC — had also ganged-up against the proclaimed date and called on the elections not to be held until some electoral reforms were in effect.

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