Poor access to education is a non-ending challenge for Matabeleland learners. Now with a changing system, both learners and teachers remain on the peripheries of comprehensive education.
The poor education infrastructure in Lupane, characterised by dilapidated school buildings, lack of computer labs and a shortage of proper staff quarters have long-term consequences to the development and the future of children.
Speaking to The Citizen Bulletin, teachers and children say the government is increasing primary education subjects regardless of not supporting the education system by learning aid while teachers also lack the requisite knowledge of the new syllabi.
Felix Ncube* a grade 6 pupil at Mbondo primary school says there are many challenges which children in rural Lupane are facing. “There are no computers at schools. We only hear about them. I have never seen one in real life, but only through the picture on the wall,” says the grade 6 pupil.
In addition to a lack of computers, Mbondo primary school is not connected to the electricity grid, a situation which is synonymous with other primary schools in the area like Pupu, Jibajiba, Lusulu and many others.
For Simon Dube* of Mthupane secondary school, it is the unavailability of books that he blames for the poor grades in both his primary and secondary education. “The lack of a library at school is affecting us, unlike our friends in schools such as Mabhikwa, Zvangendaba and those in towns. The makeshift library we have has outdated books. So we have none.”
On March 11, 2021, The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Microsoft and UNICEF officially launched the Learning passport in Zimbabwe. According to UNICEF, the Learning Passport is an innovative solution that allows students, teachers, parents and caregivers to access their school curriculum, their materials, multiple resources, online activities and develop different life skills. But, Simon and Felix have not even heard of the learning passport in the periphery of Lupane.
Speaking at the launch Hon. Cain Mathema, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education said, “The Learning Passport will help in Government’s efforts to ensure, no learner is left behind especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Mr Tendai Nyagura, a lawyer with vast knowledge on children rights working with Justice for Children (JCT) say UNICEF has made strides to promote education in rural areas especially during COVID-19.
“It is the right of every child to have quality education despite being in a rural or urban area. The government must ensure that every child is connected to the internet. Thanks to UNICEF for many initiatives including the internet of good things, radio handsets in rural areas and supporting the radio lessons. However, there is a need for a robust strategy to cater for rural children,” says Advocate Nyagura.
This publication observed that challenges affecting the education system in Lupane are ‘legacy’ related as they have date back to years soon after independence. Such poor infrastructure has caused rural schools to be manned by young inexperienced teachers, and the consequences are detrimental to child development.
One of the teachers who cannot be named for fear of victimisation says teaching in rural Lupane requires passion; otherwise, the place is not attractive due to underdevelopment.
“Availability of transport is part of education infrastructure. Most of the areas here are far away from the main roads where one would board the bus going to Lupane shopping centre or Bulawayo. Shops are not well stocked. It is very discouraging. Given a chance, one would seek a transfer,” says the teacher.
A former Lupane teacher now based in Hwange, Willard Muleya, agrees, “The biggest challenge unlike in towns where every child is mandated to bring sets of books like new ventures is lack of resources. We use one book for every subject and we make sure that our children share. The current economic situation has exacerbated the challenges.”
Lupane District Education Officer Mr Lovemore Ncube could not be reached for comment as his phone was not available.
The exacerbated challenges for rural children are in conflict with the theme for the Day of the African Child (DAC) commemorated on June 16 annually ‘30 years after the adoption of the Charter: Accelerate implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children’.
According to the 2021 Day of the Africa Child concept note, In 2016, the African Committee adopted “Agenda 2040: Fostering an Africa fit for children,” a 25-year agenda for the long-term and strategic progress in implementing children’s rights in Africa.
Agenda 2040 aspiration number 6 states that every child must benefit fully from quality education with policies on early childhood education, free and compulsory education. The state of the education infrastructure in Lupane is deplorable regardless that Zimbabwe is a signatory to many conventions on children rights.
Source: The Citizen Bulletin