Your Editor’s Memo, (Education now for the elite, ZimInd Jan 28 to Feb 3) made interesting reading. I want to raise a few issues which have negatively affected the country’s education delivery system.
Zimbabwe’s education system has deteriorated to an extent where it can only be described as chaotic. Currently there are no government schools to talk about because of some of the policies such as the one which says no child should be sent home due to non-payment of fees.
If the Ministry of Education is to be honest they can show you how much they are owed by parents. At one of the government schools in Harare at a School Development Association meeting, the school head indicated that only 40% of the children at the school were paid up; the rest were attending classes without paying anything to the school. The current crop of parents are not responsible; they want their children to learn for free. Since 1980 education has never been cheap. Parents have had to make sacrifices to send their children to school.
Apart from non-payments of fees, the other issue is the fees that the government is approving for the government schools, especially primary schools, is shocking as it averages US$15 per term. A snap survey shows that parents are paying anything between ZW$3 000 and ZW$7 000 as school fees for the term. This has resulted in very poor standards in former Group A schools. You find out that the school will be having a borehole and water tank that is not working because they can’t afford to maintain them. Some schools are now infested with snakes because the school cannot hire grass cutters.
School Development Associations (SDAs) are dominated by people who are not of integrity; they are the main culprits when it comes to non-payment of fees. The committee members in the SDA committee are beneficiaries of some of the policies that are derailing education in this country. Maybe there should be a criteria when selecting these members. I guess a policy which indicates that only a parent with a paid-up child is eligible to be an SDA committee member.
Government needs to fix the education sector. We can’t all afford private schools. Let’s go back to the basics and let the government schools work. Currently private schools are charging between US$500-US$3 000 per term.We all know how difficult it is for most parents to get that kind of money when they earn in ZWL. Zimbabwe has a good education system but the human factor has killed it.
Teacher-pupil ratio in most government schools is on average 1:40-50 students per class. This also affects the interaction between the teacher and the student. There is this belief that “hapana mwana anofanira kushaya nzvimbo” (no child should be turned away from school). But if we are to do our things right we need to revisit these issues.
Private schools on the other end are expensive but they cannot even provide an exercise book to the students.You pay US$725 for your child at primary school but the child is supposed to bring his/her own textbooks, exercises books, bond paper and so on; where is this money going? Private schools are taking advantage of the situation and overcharging but in some instances parents are not getting value for their money.
I suggest the government should zone the schools as in the past and let the schools have standards. If a parent cannot afford some schools, then they shouldn’t send their children to those schools. The country already has dedicated staff who were running these schools and they can still do it if the conditions of services are improved. In the past before the RTGS era you would pay US$200 at a government school. The school would provide textbooks, exercise books for the children and everything was working.
Government should revisit the issue of allowing students who owe schools money to come to school. Parents should know that they should be responsible for their children. If you are not ready to pay school fees for your own children who should do that for you.
The issue of incentives was introduced during the time when David Coltart was the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education. There was a smooth flow of education to date. It’s the same thing happening but there is something being done under the carpet. Why don’t we have this legalised and have the students pay the US$5 per month in urban centres or even have students to work for their school fees?
There is a need to educate the parents about the issue of Zimsec and Cambridge. Some lessons for parents on this issue will be useful. Should all our children write Cambridge? Is Zimsec good enough?
- Thank you for highlighting this gross inequality that is happening right before the education authorities’ eyes (Education now for the elite, ZimInd Jan 28 – Feb 3). I am afraid just mentioning it won’t do much really in terms of policy change. I do hope you tagged the relevant people so that they can address this issue.
Cambridge results have been released while Zimsec O’Level exams are still being written. Lower 6th in private schools have already started lessons while exams are still going on in public schools. How then can there be an even playing field? How will the public school students have access to schools of choice when the schools have already enrolled? This inequality is shown in every sector of our lives. The authorities that be need to be conscientised on how they are knowingly or unknowingly reversing the gains of independence. We hear of schools with zero percent pass rates, we would want to know what corrective measures the Ministry of Education has put in place so that these schools may be assisted.
I trust you will pursue the matter.
- Thank you for your excellent Editor’s Memo highlighting the education system today in our beloved country. A small point, but please note that pre-1980, private schools were in fact multiracial, but again for the wealthier segment of the white, black and Asian communities, and there were annual Form 1 scholarships offered to all . The late David Hatendi springs to mind, a Petrean and Rhodes Scholar, amongst several other illustrious Zimbabweans born pre-Independence. Private school teachers did not have to have teaching qualifications, only degrees. Government schools were considered to have higher teaching standards and better facilities than private schools. Education is our most important gift to our children and I am grateful to you for highlighting the present inequity. This is a crucial and heartbreaking issue that needs urgent attention.