Matabeleland North province’s Lupane district is facing a crippling shortage of early childhood education (ECD) teachers, officials have said.
BY SILAS NKALA
This was revealed last Thursday at the launch of the Citizen Participation in Development Programme by the Rural Communities Empowerment Trust (RuCet) in Lupane.
Lupane district schools inspector Lovemore Ncube told participants at the event that Lupane had a serious shortage of ECD teachers.
He indicated that the only option was for parents to hire para-teachers, who they would pay as government had frozen the recruitment of qualified teachers.
“We have 109 primary schools in the district, yet we have only 18 qualified ECD teachers. It is not that we have a shortage of these teachers alone, there is even a shortage of heads as most of our schools have acting heads,” Ncube said.
“The only way to deal with ECD teacher shortages is for parents to hire para-teachers to teach ECD A and B, and pay them. Finance and Economic Development minister (Mthuli Ncube) has since said there is no money, and this means government is unable to hire teachers.”
Ncube said since it is a constitutional right for children to be taught in their mother tongue, it was also necessary that those who teach ECD classes were able to converse in the pupils’ mother language. Ncube was responding to concerns raised by participants who complained of the over-deployment of non-Ndebele-speaking teachers in the area.
Another parent said there was a serious challenge in his ward where a school was being manned by three teachers.
Lupane’s Kusile Rural District Council chief executive officer, Christopher Chuma, blamed parents who did not send their children to school for the crisis.
“The problem is that you parents do not send your children to school. All along, there were temporary teaching posts that were being taken up by people from outside the district. Lupane is the most affected by the shortages. Even if the freezing of recruitment is lifted, there can be a very few qualified teachers within the district to take up the posts. Please, can we educate our children so that they become qualified for the jobs,” Chuma said.
This was dismissed by RuCet deputy board chairperson, Thembelani Dube who said qualified local teachers who were trained at Hillside Teachers’ College and United College of Education in Bulawayo, among others, were presently unemployed.
“People are sending their children to school. Recently, many job-seeking qualified teachers registered at Mhlahlandlela government offices in Bulawayo, and the database shows that we have a huge number of unemployed teachers from Lupane and surrounding districts,” Dube said.
“There is no reason why teachers who do not speak the learners’ language should be deployed here, when there is a huge number of unemployed teachers.”
Dube appealed to government to prioritise the recruitment of local unemployed teachers. He also urged stakeholders to engage Lupane State University to initiate an ECD teaching programme to alleviate the shortage of local teachers.