16 January 2013

Zimbabwe: 30 000 Vacant Posts in Education

THE education sector remains in a crisis with the Ministry of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture having more than 30 000 vacant posts as the new school term unfolds.

This is at a time when Treasury has imposed a recruitment freeze to manage a financial squeeze rattling the inclusive government.

The ministry, which has a workforce of 138 950 and 3 959 315 learners in both primary and secondary schools, has little room to manoeuvre this year in terms of improving standards.

About 94 percent of its budgetary allocation will go towards salaries, leaving only 5, 9 percent for other requirements such as quality assurance and capacity development.

All the five parastatals under the ministry have also fallen victim to the obtaining state of affairs. The Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council, which is responsible for public examinations, has been the hardest hit.

A closer look at the ministry's budget allocation shows that it would have less than US$1 to educate its 3 959 315 learners per month against the universally recommended US$7 per month per child.

According to the latest report by the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Sports, Arts and Culture, Members of Parliament are of the view that the situation could worsen this year due to underfunding.

Fears are that the ministry might not even get the full allocation and to worsen matters, Treasury has traditionally released funds late thereby negatively impacting on programmes due to unavailability of funds when they are needed.

Several measures are being recommended by the committee to rescue the situation.

"To reduce costs, the committee recommends that the Ministries of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture; Higher and Tertiary Education and Science and Technology be collapsed into one ministry. This will result in reduction of some overhead costs since these ministries have almost similar responsibilities," reads part of the committee report.

"To ensure that all Ministries are adequately funded, it is recommended that the revenue collection by the E-government must improve and any revenue collected by any E-government department must go to Treasury for equal distribution among all ministries."

Members of the committee are opposed to incentives paid to teachers by parents as they are divisive.

To escape low salaries, some teachers have resorted to taking a lackadaisical approach to work during normal working hours so as to ask students to come for extra lessons to enable them to demand separate payments.

While in the past, extra lessons were for those writing public examinations such as those in form four, now children as young as in grade two are asked to attend.

The MPs said while the civil service needs to be well-paid, infrastructure development, a key driver of national development, should also be given adequate attention by government.

It was also recommended that government pay attention to buildings and improving school infrastructure for proper learning to take place, particularly given that some schools are using make-shift facilities.

The ministry should also consider sprucing up sporting facilities that were allocated only 0,64 percent of the ministry's budget, which is indicative of the myth that sport is not a source of livelihood and that children should focus on the academic aspect as the only source of livelihood, even though the two aspects should complement each other.

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