By Trevor Makonyonga
Teachers have registered their disgruntlement with the way the government is handling the education sector calling the education sector privatised. Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) Secretary General, Robson Chere and Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Dr Takavafira Zhou in separate interviews with Bustop TV spoke about how the government has forsaken and left the ordinary people when it comes to education.
Robson Chere said that at the moment the education system is under siege.
“We have a number of factors which are making the education sector under siege. We are seeing a situation whereby there is a class struggle where only a few elite, mostly the ruling elite are the ones who have children who are accessing online learning because of the nature of schools that they go but the majority of the parents can’t afford that. We can say that education has been privatised in Zimbabwe. It is now for only those who are privileged or only those who are coming from rich families. Ordinary people cannot afford an education at the moment,” he said.
Dr Zhou concurred with sentiments by Chere as he mentioned that a huge percentage of learners are currently excluded in the teaching and learning process due the lockdown.
Dr Takavafira Zhou said, “Indeed there is no meaningful learning and learners are far detached from meaningful learning. Pedagogical methods that call for e-learning are not suitable in Zimbabwe given the fact that 80% of students have no access to internet, 75% of students have no access to television and radio frequency”.
Both Union leaders suggested solutions that the government could employ to redeem the situation.
“I encourage the government to setup what we call an education equalisation fund. This fund will be set aside to improve the infrastructure of rural schools so that they will be at par with group A schools in urban areas. Other education materials can be acquired using this fund. I encourage the government to improve the welfare of the learners and the teachers. Beginning with the teachers who are now poorly remunerated.
“A motivated teacher will deliver. At the moment the government is not motivating it’s workforce. It has criminalised some of the labour rights like demonstrating, for example, we have a teacher in Masvingo Sheila Chisirimunhu who was sentences to 10 years in prison for asking the employer that she wants to be paid in US dollars so the government has criminalised trade Unionists,”Chere said.
In the same spirit Dr Zhou said there is urgent need for the Ministry to engage teachers in an attempt to design a robust teaching methods appropriate to challenges faced in Zimbabwe.
“Class whatsApp groups for primary schools, subject whatsApp groups for Secondary schools, use of parents phones by students, Data bundles for teachers and provision of smart phones to students from poor background; are some strategies that must be seriously considered by gvt. The challenge with government is unilateralism and commandist approach in which government officials rarely consult teachers, yet they are crucial in the successful implementation of reforms in the Ministry”.
Dr Zhou also spoke about the Equalisation fund of which he said that the government was not able to setup. He also spoke of the progress that they made as a union to try and help out the learners in rural areas.
“The idea of an equalisation fund is good and we used to have it in the Ministry of Education. However, we dont see it happening under the current government. Our view is to appeal to UNICEF to channel funds towards children from poor backgrounds particularly in rural areas. They can even donate learning gadgets specifically targeting rural pupils. We have also appealed to Education International that has availed gadgets like torches to pupils in rural Chipinge. These touches are used for reading purposes at night as they use solar. But the students need learning gadgets that can enable them to access whatsApp classes from their teachers.” Dr Zhou said.
The physical opening of schools remains unknown thereby casting many learners’ education at halt.