Woza Moya January 2010 English



Looking back to look forward – Education in Zimbabwe by WOZA

The education of their children has been a major driving force for WOZA members and the motivation behind much activism. In the first decade after Independence, the education system in Zimbabwe was praised as the best in Africa. But since 2000 it has declined because of power and politics – our children’s future sacrificed. We look at how this decay took place to expose this injustice and to demand it be fixed immediately. Our children deserve excellence. They deserve teachers trained to deliver it and we will not rest until we get it.


By 2009 education was in crisis with neither state nor parents able to afford the cost of quality schooling. Buildings had fallen into disrepair and teaching materials disappeared. Huge numbers of teachers left the country due to a worthless salary. Those who stayed spent more time on strike, neglecting their teaching. Tens of thousands of children dropped out of school because it was not worth staying to learn little and then fail exams after paying high fees. Even children who passed could not find jobs, so they thought it was better to drop out and earn money in black market dealing, gold panning or cross-border trading.


In February 2009 Senator David Coltart was appointed Minister of Education. He inherited a complete disaster. And he had to face a nation of parents who still wanted their children to be educated and expected him to perform the miracle of providing a good, affordable education. Although he managed to reopen the schools and keep them open, thousands of children continue to drop out because they cannot afford the fees, high levies and top-ups teachers demand. Despite good intentions, he was unable to provide the quality of education parents wanted. Now the education system not only needs massive amounts of investment, it also needs a new curriculum, if it is to give children of Zimbabwe hope for a better future.


When we look back at the history of education we are shocked to discover that the quality of education before independence for both the white minority and the elite black minority was at a higher standard than the education being provided for those ‘born free’ in Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe was a product of a higher quality education system than he has provided for our children. One of the promises of the liberation war was free primary education and affordable secondary education for all Zimbabweans. And so the immediate goal of the new government after Independence was to open up education opportunities equally for all races. Government also insisted that all must have equal schooling but they only wanted academic schooling. And so they developed a new curriculum but it made intelligence more important than empowering people with skills. Vocational and commercial skills training streams were closed in almost all schools. There was nothing in the curriculum that covered civic education or any emphasis on practical, vocational or technical subjects, which would have allowed the children to grow into employable citizens, knowing and exercising all their rights.


In the post-Independence expansion they catered for quantity of children in schools. Expansion of education during the 1980’s was great, with numbers in secondary schools multiplying four times in six years. Obviously school places were not available and there were no teachers or enough textbooks. Instead of opening up high quality education to all Zimbabweans, there was mass education at a very low standard. Because there was no training in practical or vocational subjects, Zimbabwe produced large numbers of poorly and inappropriately educated youth who considered themselves too educated for manual labour but were not prepared for any specific employment.


By the late 80’s, however, the amounts that government was channelling to schools for operating costs was decreasing or being diverted to other budgets such as the defence forces. Someone had to begin to pay the bills. Parents committees were told to charge parents levies to cater for the purchase and repair of textbooks, furniture, cleaning equipment as well as capital development and major repairs. Teachers earning meaningless salaries looked to parents to provide them with top ups or else went on strike. In 2009, teachers came back to work for an ‘allowance’ of US $100 a month, which was later, increased to US $150. Urban primary schools in high-density areas paid US $5, a little more for secondary schools and primary schools in low-density areas and rural primary schools did not have a fee. But this money was not enough to kick start schooling so parents’ committees were told to increase levy amounts to cover expenses. Since February 2009, the Ministry of Education has struggled to keep the schools open and the teachers in place. Teachers do not bother themselves with teaching children in their official morning sessions but in the afternoon transform into private tutors motivated by direct cash payments by children whose parents can pay them. Many teachers are now earning more than the vast majority of Zimbabweans – most of them working only half a day.


Looking ahead in 2010 – putting our children first and demanding excellence

Education was financed from government income supplemented by large amounts of assistance from donor governments in the early 80’s. They funded everything from school and classroom construction to teacher training to curriculum development to administration. Most of this assistance was channelled through government.  But since 2000, they have been chased away. If we are to get education back on its feet we need the international community to help us but they will not give money to the ZANU PF-controlled part of government who have diverted aid money direct into party coffers or private pockets.


So parents are on their own carrying a heavy burden when they are unemployed and cannot trade without police harassing them. Should parents continue to pay fees, levies and top-ups for an education that will not make their children full citizens who can earn a living? Should parents continue to pay for a standard of education lower than the colonial education system when they were promised free primary and affordable secondary education? Zimbabwe needs to produce qualified young people who do not shun hard work.





What is needed to deliver a better education system that can make our children employable adults is the following:

  • They must start afresh and write a better curriculum with vocational subjects – both commercial and technical that will produce a skilled school-leaver who can provide adequate self- employment.
  • Teachers must teach by developing understanding and skills and not learning like a parrot to prepare for exams. Teachers and administrators will need to be re-trained to accommodate new approaches to teaching and learning.
  • The administration of schools needs to be democratic with more participatory decision-making. Stop the violence in schools. Discipline is acceptable but we say no to violence.
  • A subject which teaches human rights, good governance, and democratic practice will need to be introduced to the curriculum in order to re-orient both teachers and pupils to a society which values individuals, imagination and creativity for full understanding.
  • Examinations and the fees systems will have to be changed – we cannot pay for our children to fail because they have not learnt anything.

In January 2010, ahead of the new school year, WOZA has the following demands:

  • Teachers must produce quality teaching and show that they are committed to the learning of all their pupils equally.
  • Education authorities must utilise the vehicles that are being purchased to supervise teachers and demand more discipline in schools.
  • Teachers must stop demanding top-ups from parents and the Ministry must prohibit this practice.
  • The Ministry must work to produce a new and relevant curriculum as recommended above.
  • Parents will do their best to pay reasonable fees set by Ministry and levies set by properly constituted and democratic parents meetings at the beginning of each year – we will not accept any fee or levy changes in 2010.


Write a Comment

Take a moment to comment and tell us what you think. Some basic HTML is allowed for formatting.

You must be logged in to post a comment. Click here to login.

Reader Comments

Be the first to leave a comment!