Book donations make difference in schools

0
956

Tjedu Moyo (13), a Grade 7 pupil at Nguwanyana Primary School in Mangwe district Matabeleland South Province walks the five-kilometre journey to her school with confidence and hope.

She is fortunate enough to attend a school that has enough textbooks courtesy of the Education Transition Fund. Where there used to be a ration of one book per 15 students, it is now one book per student.

“We were thrilled when we heard that Unicef (United Nations Educational Fund) and its partners were going to donate books to us because they were scarce at our school,” said Moyo.

“When the books finally came, we were very happy. At the moment learning is easy for us since we have almost all the stationary we require and we thank the donors for the gesture.”

In September 2009 the government, Unicef and 12 other donors launched the Education Transition Fund (ETF) which saw the distribution of over 15 million text books early last year to over 5 000 primary schools in the country.

This initiative was meant to rescue the country’s education system overwhelmed by the economic meltdown experienced in the past decade.

Prior to the launch of ETF, the education sector was in the intensive care unit. In many cases the teacher was the only one with a text book.

This added to the frustration of the already disillusioned teacher weighed down under poor working conditions and a meagre salary.

Busani Dube, a parent whose child attends Nguwanyana Primary School, said the initiative had lessened their burden.

“We appreciate it was a good move. We are now paying levies only, which is relatively easy for us,” Dube said.

To kick-start the $50 million ETF project which benefited more than 2,7 million pupils, the government and Unicef got support from Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Australia.

Others partners also include Japan, the European Commission, Finland, Germany and New Zealand.

Unicef chief communication officer, Michaela de Sousa, believes that provision of text books and stationary created a conducive learning environment.

“There is no doubt that students are learning better. Students themselves are appreciating what we have done for them,” said de Sousa. “With text and exercise books as well as stationary, learning conditions certainly improve.”

De Sousa said her organisation is already training school development committees and teachers on ways to preserve the donated books for future generations.

School head Zwelikude Ngolosi said the challenge for the school, which currently has about 681 pupils, is to continue providing for its pupils after the ETF pulls out.

“We are grateful for what has been done although we do not expect ETF to continue forever and our challenge is now to put in place mechanisms to continue supplying the school with adequate learning material,” Ngolosi said.

Zimbabwe Teachers Association executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu applauded the donation, but quickly pointed out that a lot still needed to be done in the education sector.

“ETF has augmented quite immensely on the efforts being made by parents to provide for the primary school going children, but it should be noted that the infrastructure in these schools is in a sorry state,” Ndlovu said.

“Holistically looking at the education sector, the ETF contribution is a drop in the ocean. Therefore we call upon the government, churches and other partners to expedite development in schools especially in the rural and newly-resettled areas.”

Chief’s Council president Fortune Charumbira concurred with Sibanda saying books would go a long way towards improving the standard of education, but other areas needed a thought.

“The government through public-private partnerships should provide shelter and building materials because so many schools need a face-lift.

“Some buildings being used as classrooms are not suitable for human habitation,” Charumbira said.

Charumbira said rural schools needed attention as 75% of schools in the rural areas where teachers are located are demotivated by their low salaries and poor working conditions.

Progressive Teachers’ Union secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said the welfare of teachers needs to be addressed if revival of the education sector is to be overhauled.

“Books don’t teach, that is why even those with books still send their children to school. The government must give teachers better salaries and then everything else will follow,” Majongwe said.