Zimbabwe: Education Malaise Dooms Pupils

opinion

TUESDAY was a day of anxiety in Zimbabwe as it ushered in the first day at school for tens of thousands of children countrywide.

While the day was met with tears of joy and excitement, one cannot help but shudder at the thought of these innocent kids being forced to embark on a journey into the unknown.

Education has been relegated to the back burner by the powers that be and most of these kids face the prospect of adding to the ranks of the unemployed by the time they finish school as long as the status quo prevails.

Absolute power has suddenly become the only objective for political leaders at the expense of service delivery.

Once upon a time we had one of the greatest education systems Africa had ever seen.

Soon after Independence in 1980 the Zanu PF-led government made education accessible and affordable to ensure a better life for all.

But after more than a decade in power and in a bid to hang on to it at all costs, Zanu PF mercilessly bled the economy dry, leaving our once revered education system in a shambles.

Suddenly one of the government's key themes "education for all by the year 2000" was abandoned as Zanu PF devised ways of remaining in power by hook or by crook.

It was no wonder three years before the stated objective of providing education for all, President Robert Mugabe moved to secure his political position by appeasing self-styled veterans of the liberation war with huge payouts to the detriment of budgetary constraints.

The Z$50 000 one-off payments to the estimated 50 000 veterans took Zimbabwe off the rails and education bore the brunt of this miscalculation.

As we speak, Zimbabwe's education system is in a comatose state.

The early promise of afordable, quality education has ebbed away and even jeopardised the grand experiments of the very people who set up colleges and universities.

Education is now a very expensive commodity, only available to the financially well endowed. Besides, the infrastructure in many of our schools is literally crumbling, giving our kids little room to succeed.

Thousands of schools in the country are now in an unfit condition to accomodate pupils as the outdated buildings and equipment cannot cope with the demands of the 21st century.

There are few functioning science laboratories. Most school buildings have dilapidated structures and this affects the morale of teachers and children as they feel undervalued.

There has been a paltry allocation in the capital spending budget for schools in the past 15 years while our self-serving leaders wine and dine in the Middle East and Asia.

Government seems to treat education as a political battleground, and not as a national crisis that needs attention.

Our leaders have been paying lip service to the importance of education with little being done in terms of policy and expenditure.

Worryingly, too many of our public schools have no running water or electricity.

Education has been receiving crumbs from the national budget yet government seems to have unlimited millions to spend on politicians' extravagant travels.

Only political point-scoring is being invested in the future of the country's education.

Teachers are paid peanuts, maybe because they refuse to toe the Zanu PF line, but the resources of the country should be used for the benefit of everyone.

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