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‘Zim education system is discriminatory along class lines’



Educationists say the Day of the African Child, which was commemorated last Thursday on June 16, is of significance to Zimbabwe, where children are experiencing difficulties such as low quality education and prolonged strikes by teachers.

The day commemorates events of 1976, when nearly 10 000 black students from Soweto, South Africa, took to the streets to protest against poor quality education and reject the Black Education Act, which segregated students based on their race.

Hundreds were shot by security forces during a two-week protest dubbed the Soweto Uprising. NewsDay reporter Vanessa Gonye (ND) speaks to Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure (OM) on the significance of the day to Zimbabwe.

ND: The Day of the African Child was commemorated last Thursday on June 16. As an educationist, what is its significance to Zimbabwe?

OM: Zimbabwe’s education system is highly discriminatory, the discrimination is not along racial lines, but along class lines.

The sons and daughters of the working class are getting low quality education, resulting in over a million children completely losing their right to education because of COVID-19-induced poverty and disruptions, as well as austerity measures.

The curriculum is still colonial in nature as it is training learners to become workers and not entrepreneurs.

The curriculum still needs to be decolonised through comprehensive curriculum reform.

More funding should be channelled towards education to guarantee inclusive access to quality education.

ND: What does the day mean to you?

OM: The Day of the African Child reminds us of the urgent need for the creation of an Africa which is holistically safe for children, an Africa where access to empowering knowledge and skills is guaranteed for all children.

The day reminds us of the importance of ensuring that academic freedom is protected.

More importantly, the Day of the African Child should be an inspiration to all young people. They should be inspired by the spirit of the Soweto Uprising to stand up against exploitation and exclusion.

ND: Even before the advent of COVID-19, Zimbabwe’s education sector was already facing challenges. Can you elaborate?

OM: Government should pay teachers pre-October 2018 salaries in United States dollars to resolve the incapacitation crisis.

It is embarrassing to note that a teacher’s gross income, including transport and housing, is not enough to buy a basic travelling bag, which costs around $23 000.

Teachers cannot even afford to pay fees for their children to access education at the schools they teach.

Teachers are succumbing to curable diseases because they cannot afford basic healthcare.

It is unfair to expect those exploited teachers to deliver services at a time when government is actually declaring budget surplus, but it refuses to commit to pay teachers a living wage.

ND: Teachers have always agitated for proper remuneration, and as a leader of one of the teacher unions, what would you say is acceptable remuneration that will enable teachers to go back to work?

OM: The acceptable remuneration would be pre-October 2018 salaries of between US$520 and US$550.

ND: Why do you think teachers deserve that much from the employer considering that they are conducting extra lessons and charging in US dollars?

OM: The extra lessons intervention is a response to the incapacitation crisis. There is no supervision of the quality of the content delivered to the learners during these extra lessons.

So we can’t rely on extra lessons for a credible education system. We deserve the salary because we are human beings who should live a dignified life. The amount we are demanding will not cater for luxuries, but meet basics.

ND: Is demanding an additional US dollar payment from parents acceptable under the circumstances?

OM: The responsibility to pay salaries is exclusively in the hands of government. If parents were to pay salaries, we risk entrenching inequality.

The poor children will be denied their right to education. Parents and teachers should unite to demand a living wage for teachers.

ND: How can the crisis in the education sector be resolved?

OM: The crisis in the education sector can be solved by implementing ADAPT strategies. The ‘A” stands for adequately fund the education sector by meeting the Dakar threshold of 20% of the national budget going towards the education sector.

Out of the 2% transactional tax, at least 25% should be directly channelled towards education so that the best brains that are from poor backgrounds can access free education.

The budget surplus should be invested in education. Basic education should be fully funded by the State as prescribed by section 75 of the Constitution.

The “D” stands for devolved education management and getting communities to manage provision of education at a local

The “A” stands for addressing the curriculum deficits and teachers’ capacity to teach. There is need to decolonise the curriculum and make it compatible with lived realities.

There is also need to retrain teachers to enable them to deliver instruction through remote platforms.

The “P” stands for promoting labour justice for teachers to ensure that they are motivated to deliver quality service. A retention and attraction allowance for educators in rural areas should be introduced.

Finally, the “T” stands for technological and infrastructural development; This can be done through introducing an education equalisation fund.

ND: It is estimated that over
300 000 children of school-going age in Zimbabwe have a disability. As an educationist, what do you propose should be done to make the system inclusive?

OM: Disability is relative; there is need for an inclusive curriculum that will accommodate learners with different disabilities, including those with learning disabilities.

Funding education will also ensure that accessibility devices and technology will be secured. School infrastructure also needs to be adapted through a universal design so that learners with physical disabilities are not confined to special schools that are not available in under-resourced communities.

The Education ministry also needs to employ more educational psychologists and make sure assessment of learners is devolved to district level.

Assessment of learners with disabilities needs to include recommendations that can be implemented at school level.

ND: How do we continue to build capacity for teachers?

OM: Capacity building for teachers is a must. The capacity building should go beyond refresher courses.

Government should offer paid study leave for teachers. Teachers should be the most advanced academia in a country.

We want to see people with PhDs teaching in primary schools. Advancing academically should be rewarded through a salary review.

ND: The new curriculum has been described by parents as confusing and an overburden. As a teacher, how do you view it and how can it be remodelled to make it user-friendly?

OM: The new curriculum has a brilliant preamble, but awful contents. Curriculum should promote specialisation to lessen the burden on learners.

ND: When do you think the gospel of “incapacitation” will end?

OM: Incapacitation will end when teachers are capacitated through adequate remuneration.

  • Follow Vanessa on Twitter @vanessa_gonye

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