Zimbabwean Education Crisis, a Violation of Children's Rights

12 October 2020

While teachers are seen to be at the heart of the crisis as the responsible authorities play hide and seek, dodging the issue and dilly-dally. Who exactly is on the receiving end?

I see a great violation of children's rights. One of the most fundamental children's rights, "the right to education" has been violated for as long as decades ago. The right to education was one of the most important rights to be observed soon after independence and as much as the first republic enforced it and managed to reach very high levels of literacy rate in Zimbabwe, it is so sad that the essence got lost along the way. During the 2006-2008 crisis, a record of infringement on the right to education was witnessed. There was a delay in the issuing of results. Children had to proceed to Form 1, and A-level before their results came out. Children also had to stay at home as the school stopped being functional because of the economic meltdown. Since then nothing much has changed and to make matters worse the education fraternity continues to receive negativity as there is no respect for the Zimbabwean educators. During the course of the years from when the new republic took over it has been of great concern to witness educators being treated like they do not matter anymore. The term educator encompasses all from primary schools, secondary schools to tertiary education and universities. An educator is defined as, someone skilled in teaching, one who studied in theory and practice of education, an administrator in education (Merriam-Webster). These educators are professionals who dedicate their time and efforts in educating the nation but alas they are just perceived as if they are just trash. In Zimbabwe because of hyperinflation education has just become a piece of paper (useless) as the economy has been taken over by informal work that does not require education at all. The industry has closed and most companies got bankrupt hence our graduates have nowhere to go except to turn to informal trading thereby rendering education useless. But is that the reason why our educators should be treated like trash?

Just to furnish you a bit with the situation currently going on in Zimbabwe. The situation on the ground in Zimbabwe right now is that for the past two plus years educators have been earning close to nothing. Earning a salary that cannot fill the tank of a car. Teachers' salaries are equivalent to between USD35-40 precisely. While everything else has been dollarized educators continue to receive their salaries in ZWL. The educators persevered throughout the years hoping for the so-called negotiations to yield positive results but nothing came out of the negotiations. Left without any option educators found themselves unable to attend work because they cannot afford transport costs. They are demotivated, they cannot provide for their families, they cannot take their children to the schools where they teach because they cannot afford the fees and they are hungry. The million-dollar question is, can an educator in this predicament be able to deliver if force marched to work? What this means is that the authorities do not care about the quality of education given to the learner all they care about is cosmetic appearances, false education taking place, so who is short-changed here? The child of course.

In 2017 during the course of the year from when the second republic came into power a drastic infringement of labour laws have been the order of the day as the government fails to pay its workers a living wage. Educators are a big chunk of the civil servants affected. The nature of the job for educators makes their situation worse and unbearable as there cannot be arrangements for them for instance to work twice a week, or exchange duties. It means they have to be present at work to deliver their services each and every day. Now they are failing to be there not because of their own design but because they simply cannot afford. Their paltry salaries just cannot sustain. To the responsible authorities now that there is this crisis whereby an educator just cannot afford to be at work my heart bleeds to note that someone is dismally affected. Someone is being robbed here and that someone is the future. It is the child whose rights have been robbed at the end of the day. The right to education has been violated.

This crisis that is being witnessed in Zimbabwe right now will have a great impact in the near future as most children may face different side effects in their lives e.g. bullying, dropping out of school, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, loss of interest in education just to name a few. Already, the girl child mostly is on the receiving end as they become more prone to this harsh environment. We have seen a lot of disturbing pictures and videos doing rounds on social media as children are at schools unattended but still the current Minister of Education cannot stand by his ministry and defend the plight of the real reason why he is in that office leaving one to wonder who he really represents in that ministry if he cannot defend the children's right to education. The issue of educators not being solved timeously is a spillover to a violation of children's rights.

It is in the interest of our beloved future that this crisis is solved forthwith in order to save our children from further abuse of their fundamental right to education. Restore the dignity of educators. Respect educators and let them take part in policy-making not just cosmetically but pragmatically. Children themselves should be "practically" given a chance to contribute to their own welfare. Stakeholders and players like Public Service Commission, Ministry of Education, and the rest, it is with this regard that we plead you come together and save the education crisis in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwean education crisis needs intervention from civil society organisations. Our children our future!

Source: Stella Kusikwenyu Mutoti

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