The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education will be carrying out Public Hearings on the Education Amendment Bill starting on the 1st of April in Chinhoyi. The Education Coalition of Zimbabwe (ECOZI) has gathered its contributions towards the Bill below:
1.Right to basic State-funded education and adult basic education as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe (Amendment no. 20) Act, 2013 – sections 27 and 75 of the Constitution
- The Education Act should align the definition of basic state funded education to that of basic education so as to include secondary level (ECD- form four).
- Section 4 on Basic State Funded Education needs to be aligned to the constitution and global protocols which guarantees provision for free basic education.
- Whilst the government is transitioning to operationalize basic-state funded education, rural schools and children from low-income communities must be prioritised and immediately be declared to access free education by the new Education Act.
2. Education Financing
- While the bill seeks to establish the Basic Education Fund, the fund the fund is limited to funding a few of the education priorities. The coalition recommends that there is need for the government to create a Zimbabwe National Education Fund financed primarily through fiscus and private sector through innovative ways in order to broaden the funding priorities. The NEF will promote efficient and effective use of funds at central government, district and school levels. The NEF should be established as a trust fund managed by a Board of Trustees who include government departments, CSOs, Teacher Unions and the private sector.
- The Act should also highlight the government’s responsibility to adequately finance education. Governments should allocate sufficient finance for education particularly basic education. The recognised international target is a minimum of 20% of the national budgets or 6% of GDP to education. Investment should be in the priority areas of addressing the trained teacher gap, ensuring sufficient and high-quality schools, and reaching the out-of-school including by addressing structural inequality in the education system. There is also need for transparent and accountable systems to be put in place to ensure oversight of spending to avoid leakages, misdirection, and under-spending.
3. Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- The Act should mandate the government to ensure that every registered school provide disability friendly infrastructure, teachers who are able to handle learners with disabilities, access to the curriculum and access to information for all learners with disabilities as espoused under section 83 of the Constitution.
- There is need for additions to Section 68 b of the current Act to mandate every registered school to provide infrastructure suitable for use by pupils with disabilities. The Section should mandate registered schools to provide infrastructure, teaching and learning processes suitable for use by pupils with disabilities.
4. Girls Education
Define clear strategies to prioritise girls’ education to comply with the State commitment to ensuring the right to education for girls specified in the constitution.
The Act should reinforce non exclusion of learners who become pregnant and provide affirmative measures for disadvantaged and marginalised groups.
5. Conditions of Services of Teachers
- The coalition encourages inclusion of provisions that speak to the improvement of teacher welfare issues in the Bill
- There is need for repealing of Section 56 which speaks on Abolition of Unified Teaching Service and savings of pension rights, Section 57 on Transfer of teachers to Public Service and Section 59 on Conditions of service of teachers who do not transfer. (to be expanded by teacher unions)
6. Community involvement in education
- The Education Act should provide for the parental and stakeholder involvement in the running of schools through including through School Management Committees, School Development Committees/ Associations and Parents Associations. There should also be a common term used to refer to the school management bodies that is the SDCs/ SDAs.
- Extend the tenure of SDCs from at least 1year to 2 years
7. Non- formal Education
- Every registered school is mandated to establish non-formal education
8. Exclusion for Non Payment of Fees violates the right to education
- The Act must prohibit expulsion of learners from public- government and council (excluding private) schools to promote access to education by all children regardless of their economic status. However, the government and the parent are mandated to ensure that any child expelled on this basis at a private school is reintegrated in a government school.
- Repeal section 13 (4) of the Act, which states that The Head of a Government school may, subject to the directions of the Secretary, refuse to admit to that school any pupil in respect of whom fees payable at government schools have not been paid. Section 6 and 13(4) of the Act should be revised to guarantee the right to education and be in line with the international and regional frameworks as well as the national constitution. Basic education must be affordable to all, and the exclusion of learners for non-payment of fees is thus contrary to the 1960 UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (CADE), States also have an obligation to assure compliance by all with the obligation to attend school as prescribed by law and amount to discrimination as prescribed under s56 of the Constitution.
9. The obligation to progressively realise the right to education is not set out in the Education Act:
- Section 75(4) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe as well as the international instruments provide for the progressive realization of the right to education, and acknowledge constraints arising due to the limits of available resources. This is not to say that the State has no obligations where funds are not readily available.
- Progressive realisation means that a state party is obliged to have an overall developmental strategy for its school system. Rural community schools (P/S3) must be prioritised and immediately be declared free schools by the new Education Act.
- The Act should set out the measures the State should undertake to progressively realise the right to free basic education.
10. Minimum norms and standards of school infrastructure
- The Act must mandate the Minister to set clear laws and regulations setting out the obligations on the State to fix the crisis of school infrastructure, including ECD Centres and disability inclusive infrastructure.
- An infrastructure development fund needs to be considered not as a business but for development and construction of school buildings and ECD Centres, vocational education centres and modern equipment installations. Private schools, trusts, donors and individuals can contribute to this but with representation of public and private members in the fund management set up.
11. Corporal punishment
- Section 69(2) (c) must be repealed to prohibit corporal punishment in schools. The Act should encourage positive discipline measures. The Act should also put in place alternative measures that will be used by school authorities for instilling discipline in schools after the removal of corporal punishment.
- Clause 68A (5) says “under no circumstances is a teacher allowed to beat a child, should be amended to “no child should be subjected to corporal punishment”
12. Recognition of all languages
- Section 62 of the current Education Act limits learners to 3 main languages spoken in Zimbabwe, whilst the constitution provides for recognition of all 16 languages. Section 3(2) (h) of the Constitution recognise 16 official languages namely Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda and Xhosa. Further, every person has the right to use the language of their choice.
- The aspect of the right to education is violated when the State fails to provide educationally adequate means for members of different linguistics to learn.
- S62 of the current Act should be amended to reflect the plurality of Zimbabwe’s official languages
- This means that every officially recognised language must be taught in school.
- Vernacular languages should be used as languages of instruction
- The language of instruction must be the same with the language of examination
13. Definition of Terms (Clause 2)
- On the definition of ‘government schools’ and ‘non-government schools’, firstly the definitions of the two terms must be clear and there is need for clarity on where schools which are controlled by local authorities should be categorised, as well as definition of faith based schools
14. Regulation of Nursery Schools
- There is need for repealing Section 27 so that it can speak to ECD not nursery schools.
- There should be no stand-alone ECD centres as enrolment for primary school should start at ECD
15. Children’s entitlement to enrolment at schools (Clause 6)
- This clause seeks to introduce a new section which repeals Section 10 of the Act on enrolment of school-going children to the nearest school. The Bill states that every child of school going age shall be entitled to be enrolled at school nearest to his/her residential place and in the event that the school is fully enrolled, the Head of that school shall certify that the school is fully enrolled and allow the possible next nearest school to enrol the child. There is need for the Act to protect also those who are not yet enrolled in school for example allowing pupils to enrol into government schools before the full payment of school fees.
16. Payment of annual fees to the Ministry (Clause 9)
All schools other than government school shall pay a registration and an annual fee as may be prescribed by the Minister after due consultations
Source: Education Coalition of Zimbabwe (ECOZI)