ZIMBABWE: Lecturers disciplined, bonded students freed

The Zimbabwean government has suspended 18 lecturers from state-run polytechnics and colleges, and instituted disciplinary proceedings against a further 200, for participating in a strike that the authorities said was illegal. And on the medical education front, government has announced its intention to unconditionally release 2,000 nursing students it had 'bonded'.

As reported last week, the country's striking polytechnic and college lecturers were demanding that their salaries be increased to US$1,200 - from US$220 per month.

Now the lecturers have been charged with misconduct in terms of the country's public service regulations. The letters for disciplinary action state that the lecturers' crime is absenteeism from duty without official sanction.

But the president of the College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe, David Dzatsunga, has accused government of attempting to silence lecturers through heavy-handed tactics.

The academics' strike is one of a number of industrial actions undertaken by state employees this year, in protest at low salaries and poor working conditions. Zimbabwean prosecutors countrywide are also on strike, crippling the justice delivery system.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health announced it was considering releasing the examination results of over 2,000 student nurses under its controversial bonding system after failing to employ them due to lack of vacancies in the civil sector.

Under the 'cadetship' system, students who receive state financial assistance are required to work for the government for a period equal to the time they spent in training, with diplomas or certificates only being released after serving the state.

But thousands of students in Zimbabwe have found themselves stuck with neither examination results nor work. While the country's treasury has frozen any new intakes, graduates' attempts to find employment elsewhere have hit a brick wall as they do not have the necessary papers to prove they underwent training.

As previously reported in University World News, recently 10,000 nurses petitioned the government to release them so that they might seek employment outside the country's borders.

Last week in parliament, lawmakers were up in arms over the existing policy, resulting in the Minister of Health Henry Madzorera announcing they were considering unconditional release of diplomas and certificates of nurses who had not been able to fulfil their bonding requirements with the state as a result of a freeze on new recruitments.

The minister explained that under the cadetship scheme, no student would be allowed to "buy out any bonding period that he or she is required to serve".

But he said the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare was considering the "conditional release of certificates and diplomas to student nurses that have not yet been absorbed due to limited absorption capacity".

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