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The Quandary Of The Incapacitation: Zimbabwe’s Education System, A Sinking Ship?

Mass education remains the responsibility of central Government and for it to be effective, there is need to improve the teachers' conditions of service By Nhamo Muchagumisa The incidence of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns has had a grievous effect on various sectors of our economy, but the education system seems to have suffered more than any other area of human endeavour. It may be argued that when it comes to education, Covid-19 has only made Zimbabweans more aware of the challenges that have been there for quite some time, before and after dollarisation. It has been a tall order for the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to bring back teachers to the classroom after every lockdown, and even if the instructors return to the classroom, one may not be certain that any meaningful teaching and learning is taking place. The teachers' excuses may constitute a full-length book with the main plot and various subplots, but in the end, the colossal book of grievances may be summed up in a single word - incapacitation. Teachers are demanding a basic salary of US540 at least to raise their heads above the poverty datum line.

Mass education remains the responsibility of central Government and for it to be effective, there is need to improve the teachers’ conditions of service

By Nhamo Muchagumisa

The incidence of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns has had a grievous effect on various sectors of our economy, but the education system seems to have suffered more than any other area of human endeavour.

It may be argued that when it comes to education, Covid-19 has only made Zimbabweans more aware of the challenges that have been there for quite some time, before and after dollarisation.

It has been a tall order for the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to bring back teachers to the classroom after every lockdown, and even if the instructors return to the classroom, one may not be certain that any meaningful teaching and learning is taking place.

The teachers’ excuses may constitute a full-length book with the main plot and various subplots, but in the end, the colossal book of grievances may be summed up in a single word – incapacitation.

Teachers are demanding a basic salary of US540 at least to raise their heads above the poverty datum line. Even if the Government bows down to the teachers’ demands, the teachers’ fortunes will not start blooming immediately.

 

 

They need to resuscitate projects abandoned during the period of incapacitation. Some may need to start all over again as the projects have crumbled down to the foundation.

The unfortunate thing is that in Zimbabwe, we judge a person’s fortunes against the bread basket as if food is the only thing a person works for, yet in economic terms, the three basic needs for a human being are food, shelter and clothing.

Talking about shelter, consider how many teachers are lodgers because they lack the capacity to build their own homes. Those who are lucky to teach in schools where accommodation is provided may bask in false comfort, but if mishap plays its usual mischief, they suddenly find themselves without shelter.

Stories abound of male teachers whose families continue occupying school houses long after their deaths because their spouses and children have nowhere to go.

Government is doing its part to address the issue of incapacitation, for example the US$100 component which reminds this writer of the US$100 vouchers of 2009, something like starting all over again, until everyone on Government payroll is paid in US dollars again.

This and other incentives have, however, not generated much enthusiasm among most teachers, some of whom have not yet reported for duty since the commencement of the new school term on 7 February 2022.

However, it is my humble opinion that teachers must negotiate with sword in hand, that is ball pens, white board markers and other tools that go with the trade.

 

 

The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Dr Evelyn Ndlovu, has reacted by suspending all teachers and education officials who have failed to report for duty, a move that is so sad, yet is inevitable taking into consideration the regulations that define the conditions of service for civil servants.

A lot has happened in education since the incapacitation of teachers turned into a real scourge, like the mushrooming of unregistered colleges, renting space in buildings rendered redundant by the economic downturn and other factors, where innovative teachers collect the much needed extra dollar.

Such colleges are mostly owned by teachers who are still in the conventional system and they hire other teachers to ensure the viability of their projects.

Parents who send their children to conventional schools send their children for further tutorials to the new intellectual kiosks because they are slowly losing faith in mainstream schools, where the teachers are perennially demotivated.

The government had to close scores of such colleges, but there is consolation in the fact that they will be allowed to operate again if they are fully registered.

The sad thing is that even if the so-called colleges are registered, they lack the structures that make them operate as proper schools, yet parents believe they have found a good alternative to the “ailing” mainstream system. In most of the schools, the teachers are mere visitors who are fully employed by Government.

 

 

Then there are other teachers still to gain employment in the public service who also render their services to the said colleges, but unfortunately, they are not employed permanently by the colleges and one teacher may be employed by three to four colleges.

A school that does not have a stable teaching staff lacks the capacity to develop the total person which is the essence of the education system. It only prepares the learner for the examination and the concept of Ubuntu does not feature in the system.

The child, parent relationship that should obtain between teacher and learner is non-existent because the teacher only turns up for learning area related business and goes nowhere beyond.

As a result of the Covid-19 scourge, such colleges have provided relief to thousands of learners, locked away from the formal learning system. A lot of them operated clandestinely during lockdowns and parents found their services more pragmatic than e-learning demands resources that are not easily accessible to most parents.

A lot of teachers held lessons in their houses, an issue that makes the pertinent question inevitable: “Are our children safe from Covid-19 during lockdowns?” Not sending one’s child to a teacher is no solution either because as a parent one has to go out to fend for the family and the child who should be at school, but is spending excess time at home, will not stay indoors when the parent is away, and child pregnancies are too many to count in this Covid-19 era.

We hope that this time there is not going to be any prolonged closure of schools should another wave assail the country as the rules are hardly observed, and children remain exposed not only to Covid-19, but also to social ills like premarital sexual activity and drug and alcohol abuse.

 

 

There are also positive developments in the education system with more advanced private colleges playing a sterling role in the socialisation of Zimbabwean children.

Some of these colleges have state of the art boarding facilities, low teacher-pupil ratio and the proper structures that are indispensable to any school system. The great challenge is that only a tiny minority of parents can afford to send their children to such schools.

Mass education remains the responsibility of central Government and for it to be effective, there is a need to improve the teachers’ conditions of service.

It is my unequivocal hope that the impasse between teachers and Government will come to an amicable conclusion, lest everything boils down to the dereliction of our children’s right to effective basic education.

 

 

Nhamo Muchagumisa is an English Language and Literature teacher, and he writes from Odzi. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on +263771271478 Email him at: muchagumisan@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

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