By Trevor Makonyonga
Zimbabweans have always taken pride in that their country has a high literacy rate. Pride, which could soon be a point of ridicule. In a classic case of “nothing lasts forever,” the Zimbabwean education sector is now in bad shape and serious action has to be taken now before it further deteriorates.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the nation, scholars have only managed about six months of physical learning out of a possible twelve months. Those in public schools have been dormant while some in private schools have resorted to online lessons.
What this has then meant is that education has been subjected to being a privilege of the rich and only but a wish for the poor. The equation is simple, for one to go online there is need to have an a smart phone and data which now has exorbitant charges. The majority of employed Zimbabweans cannot afford these “luxuries” hence online learning becomes a non starter to the rural and high density folks who often live from hand to mouth.
On August 13, the government met with teachers’ Unions to deliberate on schools opening in the face of Covid19.
In the meeting, ARTUZ President Obert Masaraure highlighted the “unpreparedness of schools to open given government’s reluctance to assist in safe schools opening.”
According to ARTUZ information department, “Masaraure gave an insight into the fact that government was majoring on the minor ignoring the plight of teachers on terms of remuneration and this is reflected by the levels of incapacitation teachers are under and the reality that as much as teachers are committed to the continuity of the education sector teachers will not attend lessons if the issue of their welfare is not addressed pre October 2018 salaries. Another major issue was to do with teachers regrading which is proving to be a herculean task due to the bureaucratic nature of our government. The union through the President also called for the government to provide data for both Educators and Learners for them to be able access learning material and resources this will serve as a mitigatory measure in these times of crises and also the President amplified calls for the licensing of more community radio stations for easy access of learning resources to those in remote areas and with little access to data. This also has proven to be an effective way in ensuring decentralized access to education since the current broadcast lessons model is proving to be too centralized to be effective.”
If not taken politically, ARTUZ makes a point which even the government hinted on. The impending setting up of community learning centres is proof that something needs to be done and it has to be done quickly.
The first step towards a total commitment to changing the state of education lies on paying the teachers well then all else will follow because they will be motivated to do their job. With good salaries, teachers may even be innovative.