Saturday, 12 January 2008

What is happening to our education system?

The biggest threat (since independence in 1980) confronts the future of Zimbabwe’s youths with regards to their education. While schools are set to resume classes this Tuesday (15/01/08), doubt has been cast on whether pupils will be able to make it to the classroom? Let us look at the odds weighing against our student brothers and sisters starting with what is supposed to be in their power to execute.

A student is supposed to pay tuition fees in advance of the resumption of the school term. School fees have been increased by 600%. This entails a Government boarding school charging tuition fees of about Z$250million. Parents with Children attending private schools like Petra or Girls College High Schools are this year expected to folk out no less than Z$I,6billion and Z$1,5billion dollars respectively minus the groceries.

For day school students, given that many of them learn far away from their homes, parents need to avail a monthly transport and lunch allowance which is nothing less than $200 million dollars per school going child. This means that a family that has more than two school going children will require no less than half a billion dollars every month just for lunch and transport.

This is an impossible feat. Especially considering that a civil servant (for example a senior teacher) after a 1000% increment by government last week, will be taking home nothing more than Z$250million monthly. How does a parent working as a civil servant and has more than one school going child afford to pay fees for his/her children. This same scenario applies to most bread winners working in the country’s industries and are being paid peanuts. For example industrial production workers earn about 80million dollars and are expected to cover their own and their children’s transport fares plus school fees and food at home, how do they explain not being able to afford their children’s basic needs on the first day of school?

Learning institutions also have their part of the bargain to meet. Government has to make sure that schools have adequate learning material and facilities like textbooks, science labs, good infrastructure, enough and competent educators. Teachers have to be well remunerated and a good work environment created for them to stay on in their jobs. Teachers in turn have to advance their skills and dedicate most of their time to the teaching profession so that they ensure continued quality delivery.

The failure by the above to meet half way has caused a breakdown in the Zimbabwean school’s education system once known as the best in Southern if not all of Africa. The reasons are as follows (At least according to those concerned).

Teachers will spend most of their time sitting or dealing in anything else that will supplement their paltry salaries than in the classroom teaching. Students will spend the day gallivanting in the city streets than sit in class waiting for a teacher who is hardly ever present. Government will hesitate to increase teachers’ salaries because it claims it has no money. Parents will delay paying fees because (in the case of civil servants) Government always takes its time increasing their salaries and when it decides to do so it announces it through the national press. This encourages everyone else to hike their service costs in anticipation of the civil Servants’ “hefty increments”.

The above situation will culminate in nothing less than disaster. Our brothers and sisters risk being sucked into criminal and prostitution rings due to their vulnerability. An unempowered youth group, lacking in positive activity and adequate education is susceptible to risky survival tactics and mostly not serving of their interests. The girl child (especially in rural set ups) risks being left out of the classroom as parents are once again forced to choose between who (given the limited resources) is most beneficial at the time to educate. Needless to say, given the above state of affairs, the future looks bleak for the school going youths of Zimbabwe and for the country as a whole.

Who do you think is to blame for the situation that this sector is in and how do you think it can be improved on? Youths speak your mind on this and other areas to do with education in Zimbabwe by cliquing on comments. A window will appear where you can post your views and send it to us with your name or in anonymity. Let us and others like you know how you really feel.