EDUCATION stakeholders have predicted a bleak outlook for the sector this year following a myriad of challenges experienced in 2021, which included COVID-19 outbreaks at schools, teachers’ strikes, girl child pregnancies and school dropouts, among others.
Former Primary and Secondary Education minister David Coltart said the $124 billion budget allocation to the sector was not enough to address the funding needs of the ministry.
“I do not believe that the decision to defer the opening of schools this year was based on science. It is based on political considerations; and I am deeply concerned by the underfunding of the education sector in 2022,” he said.
“I am also worried about the serious rift which exists between teacher unions and the ministry. Children have suffered two catastrophic years since 2020, and the Zanu PF government is clueless, and is unable to address this major crisis.”
Coltart said the education budget should be urgently revised, adding that the actual disbursements should equate to the theoretic figures stated in the budget.
“There needs to be urgent dialogue between teacher unions and the Primary and Secondary Education ministry to establish better rapport and to address teachers’ genuine grievances. As a matter of urgency, the Education ministry should specify the new policies that need to be devised and implemented in the education sector to enable children who now have serious gaps in their learning to catch up,” he said.
“This applies particularly to young children whose education has been seriously disrupted in the last two years and, seemingly, again this year. During my tenure as the Education minister, appropriate policies were devised and implemented to enable children, who suffered similar gaps in their learning during the period 2006-2009, to catch up.”
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said the 13,4% allocation of the national budget to the education sector this year was far below the Dakar Framework threshold of 22% of the national budget.
He said in 2022, engagement with teachers was imperative as this would lead to a social contract and improved productivity.
Educators Union of Zimbabwe president Tafadzwa Munodawafa said without proper planning, the education sector would continue to endure the same problems it experienced last year.
“The education sector is not one to randomly lead without proper planning and consideration for all stakeholders involved. I shall cite two examples; the first being the confirmation of opening of school dates by the ministry, which was later reversed within a space of 24 hours by the Head of State, President Emmerson Mnangagwa. This implies lack of consultation, or maybe it could have been panic given the threat by educators to boycott opening of schools,” he said.
Munodawafa added that as long as government failed to address the issue of teachers’ salaries, stakeholders such as parents and students would continue to lose confidence in the sector.
“The second issue that reduces stakeholder confidence is that of the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council. As we speak, we have candidates writing examinations in January,” he said.
“When you take your time to think, you will notice that dates for exams were set without putting into consideration a lot of issues that include the logistical arrangements for that date to be met smoothly.
“Papers had to be moved throughout the holidays leading up to new year and worse still over the weekend.”