A comprehensive education curriculum is pertinent to growth in developing countries like Zimbabwe. At the beginning of the 2017 academic year, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education began rolling out a new curriculum.It came with recommendations of the 1999 Nziramasanga Commission of Inquiry into education and training. The Nziramasanga Commission of Inquiry was sanctioned by President Mugabe to diagnose the problems that were affecting the education sector.
The first obstacle in the implementation of the programme has, however, been the unavailability of teachers to carry through the idea from principle to practice.
Teacher representatives have already questioned the initiative while complaining on the overwhelming workload. Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association chief executive Mr Sifiso Ndlovu said the teacher to pupil ratio was worrying.
“In a normal situation, at the infant level which has ECD A up to Grade 3, the teacher pupil ratio must be 1:25 though at the moment we are working with 1:55.
“For junior school which has pupils from Grade 4 to 7, it must 1:40 at most though we have 1:60 which means teachers have a bigger workload,” Mr Ndlovu said.
He said Form One to Four classes should have a ratio of 1:35 but are currently running at 1:50.
“Lower and Upper Six the teacher to pupil ratio must be 1:20 though we are working with 1:40. “We hope Government will eventually heed our cries, hire more qualified teachers and pay our 2016 bonuses so as to motivate us to work harder in implementing this great curriculum,” he said.
Government recommends a 1:20 ratio for ECD and 1:40 for Grade 3 to 7 classes. The minimum ratio for secondary school is set at one teacher per every 25-30 pupils.
This has, however, been difficult to meet due to shortage of teachers in service. Last year, Government said the education sector was exempted from a recruitment freeze with more than 7 000 teachers being recruited at the beginning of the year.
However, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira said Government had no funds for new recruits hence the programme was stopped.
Mupfumira said Government’s intentions to recruit more teachers was still there but Treasury had not given them the go ahead.
“Intentions are still there but at the moment Treasury is yet to get the money required to pay those teachers.
“We are still waiting for Treasury’s concurrence. It is only when we get the money that we will start recruiting. At the moment there is no money,” she said.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Lazarus Dokora in December last year acknowledged challenges ahead of the implementation of the programme.
“The resources at the disposal of the ministry continue to fall far short of our needs to effectively implement the new Curriculum Framework,” he said.
Dokora introduced the new school curriculum as part of efforts to strengthen a needs-driven education system.
“The ministry will equip every learner to the disciplines of Science and Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Heritage Studies. “In addition, learners will be exposed to life-and-work learning contexts through the life-skills orientation programme,” he said in the curriculum review pamphlet.
The new curriculum is, however, regarded as positive by most education experts while questions have been asked on the readiness of teachers to implement the recommendations.
It has also been revealed that there are 13 000 vacancies for technical subject teachers across Zimbabwe.
Zimta has also indicated that 25 000 teachers were unemployed across the country.
There is only one technical teachers’ college in Zimbabwe — Belvedere Technical Teachers College — where teachers are trained to handle practical subjects.
With agriculture being made a compulsory technical subject, more challenges are expected in implementing the curriculum.
The Public Service Commission has not been able to employ more teachers.
Schools have also faced challenges of staff shortages with indications that there is a huge shortage of ECD teachers.
Government requires about 131 000 teachers against an existing complement of 122 000.
The new curriculum introduces a few foreign languages like Mandarin and Swahili.
This brings about a new set of problems since there are few specialist teachers in those fields.
There is also an acute shortage of qualified teachers to take new learning areas such as music, art, film and the new foreign languages for all.
There have been reports already that some schools in rural areas still have not received comprehensive information about the new curriculum.
The rural schools are also lagging behind amid concerns that Government follows a centre periphery model where development begins in the cities and then spreads out to the rural areas.
Nonetheless, waiting for perfect conditions to prevail in this type of economy before implementing such a programme would delay the necessary development in the education sector.
It is important to note that knowledge has become a key driver of growth and development.
Taking this first step is important and change, as much as it is overwhelming, is often necessary.
Feedback: [email protected]