HomeLocal NewsGovt arrogance leading to a failed education system

Govt arrogance leading to a failed education system

GREEK philosophers like Aristotle, Plato and Socrates wrote extensively about the importance of the pursuit for knowledge.

Plato held the belief that knowledge was not purely the result of inner reflection, but could be sought through observation and therefore, taught to others.

In the African set-up, folk telling, idioms, men’s court discussions (dare) — where young boys and men congregated to exchange ideas — speaks to the importance of education.

Having understood and experienced the benefits that education can bring to a human being, late South African president Nelson Mandela remarked that: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Fort Hare University underscores the importance of education in shaping people’s attitudes and perceptions. Various students who learnt there during the colonial epoch were radicalised and later became influential figures in their countries.

Some of the students include Nelson Mandela, Seretse Khama, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda and Robert Mugabe.

However, an analysis of the Zimbabwean education system raises pertinent questions about its efficacy. Is the system doing enough to ensure students are equipped with this powerful weapon effective enough to revolutionise the world? Can we really bank on our current crop of students particularly those from public and council schools to spearhead innovation? Is the government investing enough in the learning of primary and secondary students in this country?

The current education scenario points to a bleak future characterised by the circumstances surrounding the opening of schools this week. Many schools across the country are not yet fully operational as teachers and headmasters declared incapacitation citing poor salaries and compromised working conditions.

“Restore the value of teachers’ salaries to pre-October 2018 US$540. Enhance the capacity of schools to adhere to Covid-19 standard operating procedures,” the Federation of Zimbabwe Educators Union (FOZEU) said early this week.

Teachers were getting about RTGS$25 000 which fetches around US$100 on the black market.

“I pay US$150 for rentals and bills for the three rooms I rent in Warren Park 1. I have three children of school-going age of which one is due to start university in August,” said a Harare teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“I need transport money to travel to and from work as well as providing groceries, clothing, and other miscellaneous expenses for my family. How do I do that with a US$100 salary?” he queried.

Several other teachers in public schools are wallowing in the same predicament where salaries have become a joke.

To augment the meagre salaries, teachers have since resorted to dribbling systems all in the name of surviving. Some survival tactics are classified illegal under the country’s education policies.

 The “extra lessons pandemic” is now a new gospel in town where teachers have resorted to charging parents for rendering services to pupils outside normal school hours. Ordinary level teachers charge an average of US$10 per hour per subject, while their advanced level counterparts charge about US$20 per hour.

The same is also happening in primary schools where teachers are charging between US$10 and US$15 per pupil per month. Some teachers have since converted their houses into backyard schools in a clear case of normalising the abnormal.

 “I have 33 students who come at different intervals for lessons paying US$1 per day. This means I get more compared to what my employer is offering,” said another teacher who requested anonymity.

While the financially capacitated are able to send their children for extra lessons or private schools, the majority are reeling from the effects of an unforgiving economy.

Formal learning institutions designed to equip them with education are barely functional because teachers are disgruntled by the government’s failure to address their plight. What kind of a generation is the country producing? This is the question hovering in the minds of many.

Research has shown that some students, particularly those from boys’ high schools located in the central business district, are engaged in selling drugs because the system has failed to take control.

While some public schools are producing good results, the majority are churning half-baked products failing to make a positive impact on the socio-economic and political arena due to their compromised grounding.

“Students have already lost considerable time due to the ravaging effects of Covid-19 and do not need any more disturbances to the calendar. Unfortunately, we have a government that relies on threats and false promises instead of addressing issues,” analyst Jethro Makumbe said.

Section 75(4) of the country’s constitution provides for the state to do everything to ensure progressive realisation of the right to education for every Zimbabwean.

However, analysts feel the government is not doing enough and this has had a negative bearing on the quality of education.

“Government announced a raft of monetary and non-monetary incentives meant to appease disgruntled teachers, but these should be backed by action and continuous review,” analyst Tanaka Mandizvidza said.

Among other things, the government on Tuesday said it was going to effect “a 20% increase in the Zimbabwean dollar salary component backdated to January 1, 2022, US$100 per month in hard currency effective March 1, 2022.”

Part of the teacher community has vehemently condemned the initiative and the situation points towards a worsening situation.

Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) national secretary-general Robson Chere said the new salary package was inadequate.

“The union is consulting its members on the way forward given the government’s complete disregard of collective bargaining and the inadequacy of the new package. Meanwhile, teachers remain incapacitated and remain in the trenches,” Chere said.

The continued fight between government and civil servants points to a never-ending battle that will cascade into chaos when it comes to the welfare of students.

Government has continued to normalise the abnormal and the country’s once prestigious literacy rate is under serious threat.

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