Yesterday 25 August 2021, government nicodemously announced that schools will open on 30 August 2021. The announcement was backed by a claim that preparations for schools had been done extensively. The vague claim of preparations does not speak to teacher preparedness to teach, learner preparedness to learn, parents’ preparedness to fund education and schools’ preparedness for safety in face of COVID19.
For the record ARTUZ is for education and our hope is that government attend to the fundamentals to enable our schools to safely and effectively open.
Teacher Preparedness to teach
In 2020 the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Professor Paul Mavima pronounced that by January 2021 government would have produced a roadmap towards restoration of pre-October 2018 salaries for teachers. To date no roadmap has been shared. Government has only resorted to adjusting salaries in line with inflation. The same value of low salaries has been maintained under the guise of increments. Teachers therefore remain severely incapacitated. Teachers cant afford to pay tuition fees for their own children let alone travel back to work.
ARTUZ implores government to urgently restore salaries to pre-October 2018 so that effective learning can resume.
Parents preparedness to fund education
Schools heavily rely on parents for education funding. Outside paying teacher salaries government hardly raises a finger to fund education. The parents are coming from a hard lockdown and incomes have been wiped through retrenchments and collapse of informal economy. Zimbabwe’s social security policies are weak. It is foolhardy to expect parents to raise funds for fees and other learning materials in the next 4 days.
We recommend that government deploy the budget surplus towards effective schools opening. A waiver on school fees should be put in place. Government should fully fund the effective opening of schools except for learners in elite private schools.
Learner preparedness to learn
Learners have gone through multiple traumatic experiences during the lockdown. Government should urgently institute a counseling regime for all learners to prepare them for learning.
Schools preparedness in face of COVID-19
Government is releasing ZWL$ 500 million for safe schools opening. This translates to ZW$ 100 per learner. Almost USD 0.75 cents. This is inadequate for funding adherence to Standard Operating Procedures in schools. Government should deploy enough resources for safe schools opening.
Austerity measures – the author of current education crisis
It should be noted that the education crisis is born out of the failed neo-liberal project of imposing austerity measures. The under-funding of education is part of a whole package of cutting expenditure on social services.
The Incheon Declaration for Education(2015) to which Zimbabwe is a signatory ,mandates governments to spend at least 4 to 6% of national Gross Domestic Product towards education. Nominal GDP for 2021 is at ZWL$ 2.3 trillion, ( about USD $29.3 billion). 4% would be ZW$95.9 billion while 6% will be ZWL $ 143.9 billion. The 2021 budget is ZWL$ 55.2 billion signifies 2.3% of national GDP. Both Dakar Declaration and Incheon declaration mandate signatory states to allocate 20% of national budget towards education. 2021 budget for education could have been ZWL 84.3 billion. The ZWL $ 55.2 billion amounts to 13.09% of annual national budget. The ZWL$ 55.2 billion translates to USD 674 million using current rates. This is a consistent drop from USD 1.162 billion allocated in 2019, USD 905 million 2018 and USD 803 million 2017.
The under-funding of education has led to teacher incapacitation as they are underpaid. The new curriculum is underfunded and implementation is a challenge. There is also limited support for capital investment at a time Zimbabwe has a shortage of almost 3000 schools and existing schools have dilapidated infrastructure. Government has also failed to support schools to adhere to Standard Operating Procedures and schools have remained closed.
Monday 30 August 2021 is hereby declared as day of national action to demand right to education as set out in section 75 of the constitution. Citizens are invited to join our nationwide protests set for * Monday 30 August 2021* Lets put our government to task and demand quality education for our 5 million learners.