By Judith Sibanda
Victoria Falls, April 28, 2016 – THE Zimbabwe Teachers Association ( Zimta) says it does not respect and support the learners’ national pledge saying it was unconstitutional and infringes the rights of learners and that of teachers’ professional Independence.
The issue has already caused outrage and criticism by some churches, human rights, activists and parents who have taken the matter to the Constitutional Court saying the pledge should have been subjected to public consultation before being foisted on learners.
The issue was raised during the ongoing 35th Zimta conference held in Victoria Falls.
The indaba is running under the theme, “Equitable Quality Education; a public human right good, for sustainable societies”.
Zimta president Richard Gundani said it was not a bad idea to unify children so that they understand their history and origins and celebrate their culture but it was disheartening that the government was “indoctrinating” teachers to prescribe the method to the school children hence depriving them of their professional independence.
“We are currently on serious debate over the issue and the question is; is it a product of consultation or somebody just sat and came up with the pledge?” Gundani said.
“We are in a predicament and dilemma because of this pledge which begins as a prayer and Christians have seriously condemned that. There is a huge reaction from the Christian world and constitutionality. One asks, should school force pupils to pray plus we have so many religions in the country like Muslims and those who are into African religion and where is their place in such a pledge?”
Zimta CEO, Sifiso Ndlovu said there was a gap between the expectations of the government and their society especially in the issue of inspectors hence leading to a lack of professional independence of practicing teachers.
“The people who are at the ground must be given their ethics on how they understand in the sense of being self regulating.
“In the past year, we have received a lot of complaints from our educators from different schools of how they are treated particularly by inspectors from the Civil Service Commission and also even the inspectors within the education system, it is sad that you will have a system which gives more prominence to inspection rather than supervision and in our view, that is an old way of running a system.
“You do not run a system through inspections but through supervision. So for us as professionals we say supervision yes, inspection no.
“What inspection does is to observe you going through the paces doing whatever you are doing while marking correct or wrong and then they give you a mark and go away without telling you where you have gone wrong or right and how you are supposed to correct that. The next day you are told it’s either you’re supposed to be charged, demoted or promoted.
“Our system has created a division which is going to have 300 inspectors and we have no place for them in the system. We would subject specialists who are experienced and who are going to provide guidance to the teachers who are on the ground.
“The methods that are used are also wrong as they disregard the whole process of management in the school system and come down to the teacher where they request the schemes of work, check on the standards and how certain things are being implemented we believe that is not their place if there is a head who is qualified, he is the first manager there then followed by other officers so we don’t believe in the inspectors they are giving professional autonomy to the teachers on the ground and that will be addresses through the Teaching Professional Council.”
Ndlovu said the practice affected even the students together with parents.
“They are taking away the professional dignity of the teacher to decide on what methodology to apply. There is a lot of prescription given which undermines the teaching professionalism in that aspect we are saying to ourselves are we really professionals after going for 4 years in training learning how to teach the children as a specialist and that must be respected but then you get a prescription to an extent of a content. Government is taking away the independence and professionalism of a teacher, he said.
Some criticized the government’s reluctance in aligning the country’s laws with the 2013 Constitution, especially in the labour section.