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Many Students in Zimbabwe Find Themselves Without Schools

A girl who was turned away from school jumps a puddle. Even schools that are open lack desks and books, and fees must be paid in U.S. dollars.
A girl who was turned away from school jumps a puddle. Even schools that are open lack desks and books, and fees must be paid in U.S. dollars. (By Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi -- Associated Press)

A few blocks away, about a third of the student body was present at the high school Michael should have been attending. In one classroom, 11 second-year math students worked on an exercise with no teacher in sight.

Nearly 20 teachers sat chatting in the staff room or soaking up the midmorning sun on outdoor benches.

"Coming doesn't mean we have started working in the real sense of the word 'work,' " said Preston Pundo, a geography and woodworking instructor, who said he had been paid $50 so far, short of the $300 monthly salary the parents association promised each teacher. "It's only a matter of setting students on some work, and then we idle around wondering where we would get the money to survive."

In downtown Harare, Kundai also wondered about his future, which he has determined will be "bleak" if he does not get his exam results and return to school. But where would the money come from? His mother is dead, he said, and a mysterious illness caused his father's leg to swell so enormously that he stopped working as a taxi driver.

Considering the circumstances, Kundai thinks he did well on the tests, particularly on a history question about the Treaty of Versailles. He is not so sure about math -- that textbook, he discovered on test day, was too advanced.

"It was very unfortunate," he said. "You can't really do math by yourself and expect to be excellent."

Special correspondent Darlington Majonga contributed to this report.

Mugabe's $250,000 Birthday

President Robert Mugabe threw himself a lavish birthday bash Saturday that reportedly cost $250,000, as the unity government failed to secure financial aid to rescue the collapsed economy.

Mugabe, who turned 85 on Feb. 21, has been in power since the end of white rule in 1980.

-- Associated Press


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