As thousands of our members welcomed pupils and parents for the third and last term of 2017; the crisis confronting the education sector continues to spiral out of controlled.
Schools officially re-opened today for the third term amid recurrence of the same myriad of challenges affecting learners particularly those in impoverished rural areas.
While the government is on record for saying no pupil should be turned back for lack of fees, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) received disturbing reports from our officials stationed in schools countrywide of pupils being turned away for failing to raise the often-astronomical tuition.
In many instances, Schools Development Committees (SDCs) officials who have since redefined their expected roles as Dokora’s blue-eyed boys could be seen chasing away at least not less than 50 percent of pupils at schools’ gates. Is it not ironic that these SDC officials who ideally should be agents of development in schools and our rural areas have degenerated into nothing more than an antithesis of development they purport to champion.
How does a society or school develop by turning away pupils from an education oasis?
What is saddening is that children’s right to education which is enshrined in the country’s supreme law, the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No. 20 Section 75 continues to be trampled upon and disregarded by the very same people who participated its making process and endorsed this same constitution not so long ago.
In most schools deputy heads were not there as they were attending to some process organized by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. The debilitating cash crisis has rendered parents desperate as they are being fleeced by the astronomic ecocash to cash rates ranging from 20% to as high as 45% at ecocash agents; this is because SDCs in most rural schools are refusing to accept payments in ecocash demanding cash up front.
Most boarding schools have a little as 36% of students paid up as parents continue to struggle to raise adequate fees. Matabeleland North province is the worst affected in terms of turn out with most schools averaging 15% total enrolment.
The failed curriculum is being insisted on by the ministry and in some districts head of departments had been summoned to attend workshops on continuous assessment, a good 9 months into the implementation of the new curriculum.
Our members also reported incidences of harassment of teachers by zealous Civil Service Commission Inspectors.
Entangled in all this taunting malady and confusion, is a Primary and Secondary Education Minister, Lazarus Dokora, who seems to have lost his humane senses and perpetually author confusion in the education sector through his proclamations disguised as policies.
Disregarding the 2017 report by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee which glaringly paints a gloomy future in most parts of the countryside because of poverty, it is shocking that Minister Dokora would unashamedly make a proposal for parents to pay tuition using grains in this era of unpredictable climatic conditions which are usually laced with frequent aridity.
This is the same Minister who only some few months back would go on to callously suggest that parents should pay school fees using livestock fully knowing that foot and mouth disease is ravaging parts of Matabeleland and Masvingo province.
That the teachers in general are underpaid and rural teachers also receiving a paltry 13-dollar allowance is a cause for concern to any serious government that is concerned about the development of its education system. Generally, there has been lack of teacher motivation with a host of teachers choosing to habitually go AWOL on the first days of re-opening of schools as they will be busy with activities that supplement their earnings.
Once again we maintain our call for the urgent setting up of the Education Equalisation Fund to fund free quality education for all and also 100% to salary rural attraction and retention allowance to motivate and keep quality and experienced educators in the rural areas to expedite development of education.