Close to 15 000 teachers in Zimbabwe are unqualified following more than a decade of skills flight in the education sector. The sector has experienced an exodus of trained teachers to greener pastures owing to the economic hardships that have gripped the country since 2000. Despite Zimbabwe having the highest literacy rate of 92 percent in Africa, it is still heavily dependent on temporary teachers.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association acting president, Shamiso Makumbe, said the fact that the country has so many unqualified teachers, does not bode well for quality education. There is therefore urgent need to find alternative approaches to teacher education to reverse the trend. “The continuous dependence on unqualified teachers is tantamount to failure to recognise and appreciate teachers’ expertise and that teaching is a profession,” she said.
Insufficient government financing has been the major challenge, threatening access to education, let alone quality education. And, as teachers joined the rest of the world in commemorating the 20th anniversary of the World Teacher’s Day last week, many took time to reflect on what has been achieved by the profession over the years.
The day was first celebrated in 1994 to honour and recognise the signing of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation — International Labour Organisation recommendations regarding the status of teachers on October 5, 1966. On this day, countries around the world, including Zimbabwe, show immense consideration, appreciation, awareness and understanding about the critical contribution which teachers make to the development of education.
This year’s World Teachers’ Day came at a time when educators are facing a myriad of challenges emanating from the eroded status of the teaching profession. Also among the challenges are issues to do with poor remuneration, appalling conditions of service and understaffing among other related factors.
“Most teachers are operating in very challenging circumstances in remote rural areas, farming communities, resettlement areas, mining compounds and other marginalised communities where they grapple with long distances to nearest bus stops, non-existence of health facilities, poor or no accommodation, poor infrastructure and hot seating and many other challenges,” bemoaned Maxwell Rafemoyo, the National Coordinator for the Education Coalition of Zimbabwe in his solidarity message.
“Cognisant of the fact that Treasury is spending 76 percent towards salaries of civil servants, teachers included, we call upon the government to be more creative in generating attractive packages,” he added. Rafemoyo wants government to consider packages such as accelerated promotions, availability of housing and stands, subsidies on fees for teachers’ children and their manpower development among other non-monetary benefits. – Mandla Tshuma