A Parliamentary committee has produced a damning report about the learning environment obtaining at most satellite schools set up at seized commercial farms during the land reform programme.
The report, produced by the Senate Thematic Committee on Millenium Development Goals on the provision of education in resettled areas, established Zimbabwe had 701 satellite primary schools that were not legally registered and hence did not get any budgetary allocation and had no headmasters.
“The state of the infrastructure, classrooms, teachers’ accommodation, and ablution facilities at satellite schools ranges from non-existent; huts made of pole and dagga; to dilapidated old farmhouses or tobacco barns,” said the committee.
“The Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture expects resettled communities to take up the initiative of constructing schools, but such communities are scratching for a living and satellite schools suffer from scarcity of resources such as furniture and learning and teaching material. The learning process takes place while children are seated on timber, bricks or on the floor.”
The report also revealed that during Grade Seven examinations, satellite schools had to borrow desks and tables from neighbouring schools. Although a consignment of English, Maths, Shona/Ndebele and Science textbooks were delivered by Unicef, shortages were noted in other subjects not covered under the Unicef programme like Home Economics and Religious and Moral Education.
“Parents also expressed concern that satellite schools were being staffed with teachers coming straight from college with little or no exposure and experience to run them.
“There was high mobility of staff because teachers have no accommodation and have to travel up to 12km to and from work. To make matters worse, there are no accessible roads and there are transport problems,” the report said.
The report also noted that most parents at these schools were unable to pay fees ranging between $10 and $15, while the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) was benefiting a small fraction of needy pupils.
“There is also long absenteeism by children or temporary dropouts as children look for piece jobs and in some cases parents would engage children as free farm labourers,” the committee said.
The committee also noted that most pupils did not have birth certificates, a situation that caused them not to register for Grade Seven examinations.