Zimbabwe has an enviable record in Africa for the quality of its educated population. The enormous investment in education from the beginning of Independence in 1980, has drawn favourable comment in Africa and around the world. It is thus deeply disturbing that schools have become sites of repression and teachers targets for repression. Children have been forced to attend political rallies, schools have become places where partisan political meetings take place, and teachers have become the targets of intimidation and violence.

Zimbabwe has an enviable record in Africa for the quality of its educated population. The enormous investment in education from the beginning of Independence in 1980, has drawn favourable comment in Africa and around the world. It is thus deeply disturbing that schools have become sites of repression and teachers targets for repression. Children have been forced to attend political rallies, schools have become places where partisan political meetings political meetings take place, and teachers have become the targets of intimidation and violence.

Learning institutions ought to be havens for education, a thing that has proven to be difficult to achieve in Zimbabwe especially during elections. A reflection on studies done on the impact of violence on education reveals a myriad of consequences emanating from the abuse of schools through politically motivated violence. The effects are not only limited to attacks on teachers, and politicisation, militarisation of school but also exposing students and pupils to violence.

The Safe Learning Institutions Initiative (SLII) is a consortium made up of five organisations, namely Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), Veritas Zimbabwe, Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) and Christians Students’ Movement of Zimbabwe (SCMZ). The consortium envisages learning institutions in which learners and teachers are able to maximise their gifts in an atmosphere of safety, dignity and respect.

In Africa, the kidnapping of the 113 Chibok girls by the jihadists, Boko Haram, casts a shadow on the safety of schools are all over the world. There are cases of schools shooting in the USA. During the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe for instance, schools were fishing grounds for new fighters. Today, schools have remained melting pots of violent politics, exposing learners to political vitriol, slandering, scandalising of opponents, and outright political violence, including potential exposure to ordinances such as grenades.

This policy brief deals with the issue of making schools, pupils and teachers safe from exposure to political violence during elections. The brief builds upon previous research carried out by RAU, and the recent (related) decision by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to protect children from attending political meetings.

Schools, schooling and teachers are a fundamental part of a nation’s fabric, having critically important roles in developing the workforce and social capital of the future. Multiple studies demonstrate the crucial role that education plays in development. All societies desiring to develop economically, and have a strong, stable citizenry, place high priority on education. Zimbabwe is no different and has received endless praise for the investment by government in education.