Reports that parents and guardians face a mammoth task to secure Form One places every year for their children in conventional Government schools is disturbing. This national challenge calls for a holistic approach involving Government, private sector and non-governmental organisations if the country is to secure a better future for this innocent generation of young people.
Zimbabwe is esteemed the world over for its 92 percent literacy rate and this is a national pride that needs to be preserved and improved.
It is against this backdrop that we call upon the Government to revisit its policies of education for all enunciated soon after independence where there was massive construction of both primary and secondary schools nationwide.
Many leaders today including those in Government and other institutions benefited from this policy and it is everyone's hope that they craft policies that respond to this emerging challenge.
The population is steadily growing and it appears this is not matched by a deliberate policy to build more schools, mainly secondary. There were about 192 secondary schools at independence and 2 401 primary schools. On Monday we published a story that the country now has over 8 500 primary and 1 300 conventional secondary schools.
Assuming that each primary school has three grade seven classes with 90 pupils and that each secondary school has the same, it means about 765 000 Grade Seven pupils will be competing for only 117 000 Form One places. Of course some private schools and unregistered backyard colleges will absorb the difference, but chances are high that the less academically gifted pupils will drop from school at that level.
This number is too big to be ignored and the authorities should be forced to spring to action. We, therefore, suggest that Government should go back to the drawing board and reintroduce the Upper Top concept, where primary schools would use the facilities in the morning while secondary school pupils use the same in the afternoon.
This also calls for the training of more secondary school teachers to cope with the demand for the service. Government should also come up with enabling legislation that encourages many rich people to build more private secondary schools so that those that can afford the fees send their children there.
There are so many rich Zimbabweans who can afford any fee asked by any private school locally and abroad. There is also a crop of emerging bourgeoisie in the country and these should be encouraged to construct schools to relieve pressure on the few existing ones.
Some traditional church organisations such as Salvation Army, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed Church in Zimbabwe and some apostolic churches, among others, should be lauded for building many boarding schools throughout the country.
However, they should be encouraged to build more to help solve this emerging national challenge. We also call upon the mushrooming Pentecostal Churches to use the huge sums of money they collect every week to build more conventional schools to help educate Zimbabweans.
Zimbabweans must be as patriotic as liberators of this country and invest their money in schools without expecting quick returns. Some of these investments should be done for posterity. Today many parents and guardians are shunning some former Group A schools due to dilapidated infrastructure.
Yes, Government approves school fees for all Government schools, but it is high time that at least parents agree to pay slightly higher fees to renovate decaying infrastructure.
If some parents can afford up to US$2 000 per term sending their children to some of these private schools, some of them without even open playing grounds for their children, what stops them from paying at least US$500 at some of these former Group A schools so that standards are improved. These schools are in trouble because the US$90 levy is too little to maintain a pupil at a secondary school the whole term.
So as legislators, policy makers and school heads plan and come up with policies, they should not forget this defenceless generation that is yearning to receive better education.
It does not make much sense for leaders to have many degrees yet surrounded by hundreds of thousands of young people who have mediocre education.