Zimbabwe: Statement By Hon. Fidelis Mhashu, the MDC Secretary for Education On the Country's Education System.

press release

Photo: Unicef/IRIN
School kids sharing text books in Zimbabwe.

The MDC is alarmed by the decline in Zimbabwe's education since ruination of the economy from 1998 up to 2009 by the Zanu PF government; there has been a steady but disturbing decline of Zimbabwe's educational standards and quality

These have been attributed to a number of reasons

1. Negative inclinations

a) Elections

During election years: 2000 (General elections); 2002 (Presidential elections); 2005 (General elections); 2008 (harmonised elections) there were disruptions in learning and teaching because of violence. Teachers, parents, were beaten up by war veteran's soldiers, and other state agents. There was therefore internal migration of families (parents, teachers and children) to safer areas of the country. An alarming depression in the education graph was depicted. In 2008 because of Zanu PF's violence and a declining economy, students and teachers had only 23 days of actual learning and teaching.

b) Brain drain

Trained teachers fled to other countries mainly South Africa and Botswana to teach there or do other demeaning menial jobs in order to survive. Unfortunately, they carried with them their professional skills and expertise resulting in serious shortage of person power in critical areas such as science, mathematics and technical subjects.

c) Stand off

No skilled immigrants or expatriates could consider risking their lives to come to Zimbabwe as they watched and waited for the political and economic environment to improve. The education sector suffered.

d) Absence of poverty alleviation measures

Poverty contributes to school failure, school failure contributes to poverty. This state of affairs de-motivates schooling which has no prospects of jobs. Intellectual rigour and work discipline have deteriorated. The supremacy of values such as good habits, ideas, industry, peace, justice etc has been lost.

e) Ineffective education administration

Teaching is not regarded as a profession anymore but as a job. Some unqualified teachers are assigned to teach classes beyond their capabilities and subject content.

Supervision and monitoring of standards are at their minimum. With 78 education districts in Zimbabwe we have not had requisite numbers of vehicles to use for inspection, supervision, monitoring and evaluation.

Research reveals that only 25% of students the world over, are suited for academic qualifications, 75% for technical. Our administration does not emphasise this binary system, so important for the production of quality students that in turn assist in the growth of our economy.

Facilitated staff development programmes are a thing of the past; yet our staff requires regular renewal and growth, so that they are honed to teach to produce impressive results.

There must be deliberate promotion of active learning, problem solving skills, creativity, where the teacher is a facilitator of the learning processes and not as a banker of information into the children's minds.

Localisation of examinations is a mature concept for a nation but would be ineffectual when we lower our standards to an extent that we become uncompetitive with the international ones. We have become infamous for rejected grades in other countries, accused of examination leakages thereby lose credibility.

f) Irrelevant curriculum

Our curricula are predominantly arts and humanities with diluted versions of "integrated science" which have components of less difficult areas just to make our students pass.

2. Consequences

The negative inclinations cited above have had the following consequences

i. Low average annual pass rate

Grade Seven 50%

ZJC 50%

O'level 19%

A' level 62%

In 2012, 172 000 students sat for their O level and only 32 000 passed.

In some subjects students scored 20%, 18% and 13% - What a shock. As usual scores in Science and Mathematics are horrendous.

ii. Progression rates to the next level are implausible.

iii. Completion rates of either the primary sector or secondary sector are not guaranteed.

iv. Dropout rates: on average we have 2, 5 million pupils in the primary sector each year, but only about 800 000 (68%) proceed to secondary

v. Retrogressive ratios.

Teacher- pupil ratio (1-60) which makes individualised help impossible

Desk-pupil ratios (1-7) causing over-crowdedness

Textbook-pupil ratio which used to be (1-8) now improved to (1-1) in four primary school subjects.

Thanks to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who sourced funding from cooperating partners through the Education Transition Fund.

What MDC government guarantees the nation

a) Peace, security and the rule of law as a prerequisite for productive learning

b) Free and compulsory primary education, gradually to secondary education

c) We will stop discrimination against girl child that was exercised in traditional society and the colonial period.

d) Promote Brain Gain by:

Improving the conditions of service for teachers, that includes remuneration, accommodation, promotions, housing allowances, travel allowances.

Deliberate engagement of skilled returnees from the Diaspora

Less dependency on expatriates

e) Put in place strategies for poverty alleviation to produce conducive learning environment. There is a link between poverty and educational achievement.

f) Greatly improve education administration.

g) Overhaul education pedagogy (process of learning and teaching)

h) Have deliberate bias for science, mathematics, vocational and technical education that helps improve our economy.

i) Provide sound education and training of teachers in science and mathematics for confidence building and attitudinal change in the subjects.

j) Compete in international education standard

k) Set up science and mathematics research centres

l) Change the curricular for the changing world

m) Set pass rates targets for all terminal classes. There will be zero tolerance for under performance.

n) Facilitate the formation of subjects associations.

o) Provide adequate resources.

Fidelis George Mhashu - Secretary for Education

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