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View from here - 'No one will hinder my fight'

Battle for better education has proved risky for a Zimbabwean teacher who is now an opposition MP, writes Ian Evans

Battle for better education has proved risky for a Zimbabwean teacher who is now an opposition MP, writes Ian Evans

A teacher's day in the UK is rarely a life or death affair. While a minority are threatened by violence, they can at least call upon their union or the authorities.

That isn't the case for Harrison Mudzuri, one-time English teacher and union representative who, for the past two years, has been an opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP in crisis-hit Zimbabwe.

He has lost count of the number of times he has been threatened with death for opposing president Robert Mugabe and fighting for better education.

The 39-year-old MP for the Zaka Central constituency, in the heart of Zimbabwe, said: "Education is in a deplorable state and has been decomposing in recent years until the elections in 2008. Because the joint government is not working properly, we cannot get enough funds into schools where teachers have classes of 50 or 60 children. They have no books, no pens and classrooms are bad.

"It is no way to teach our children which are our future. We once had the best system in Africa - but not now."

Mr Harrison, who taught for 15 years and was a member of the militant Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, said only 90,000 of the 150,000 teaching posts are currently filled after many quit or fled abroad during the economic crisis and political oppression by Mugabe's ZanuPF party, police, army and intelligence agencies.

Over recent weeks in nearby Masvingo, teachers complained that they and pupils were forced to attend ZanuPF rallies by so-called war veterans, while in Rushinga teachers were targeted for contributing to the debate on a new constitution. ZanuPF youths claimed they would influence pupils in favour of MDC proposals and they in turn would influence parents.

Mr Harrison, who is married with three children, aged 19, 10 and seven, has been arrested 12 times in the past and tortured by secret police, but says he will never be quiet.

"I won't move an inch and am prepared to die for what I believe in. I value peace, democracy, transparency and will not be silenced as long as I am fighting for a better Zimbabwe," he said.

"I am worried about my family but they give me the courage to continue my work."

Mr Harrison still keeps close contact with schools and teachers who earn as little as #163;135 a month. He added: "We have to improve working conditions in our schools and invest money in our children. No one will hinder my fight for better education."

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