A Dangerous Reversal of Roles: A Case for and against Privatisation of Education in Zimbabwe

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National Statistics (www.zimstat.co.zw): Zimbabwe literacy rate by province
National Statistics (www.zimstat.co.zw): Zimbabwe literacy rate by province

By Tawanda Munyanyi.

AT independence in April 1980, the government of Zimbabwe availed a laudable educational policy wherein primary education was not only made compulsory, but was accorded to all who desired to go through other levels of learning, with government subsidies cushioning the inherent costs, off course with donor aid support.

The role of education in the social, economic and political life of a person were appreciated, and indeed, many boys, girls, men and women seized the opportunities and acquired various statuses through both formal and correspondence programmes. The positive results are being witnessed to this day.

However, with time, physical, economic, social and political changes taking place, changes in the structure of the curriculum, management and approaches were witnessed, with this public resource being taken over and commercialised by individuals, institutions and donor backed organisations. These transformations also came with changes in a number of issues, the worst being the privatisation of Education, arguments for being aligned to the need for provision of better, competitive and quality educational systems and standards, probably oriented towards a certain career or profession.

On the face value, the ideas sound noble, but unfortunately, since it became a cash cow, the approaches saw a change in the roles, perceptions and definitions of the teacher and students. The students, who in normal private circumstances paid more money to facilitate access to the deemed reformed and modified education curriculum, as a means by the institutional administrators to motivate and impress both the student and the parents, shifted roles and respect from the teachers, adult staff in the schools to the students.

The students, among other duties, became part of the school’s administration with regards to the recruitment, assessment, appraisals and determination of the suitability of a teacher or staff member. Students were inherently and informally assigned roles to play the informer in each classroom, informing the school authorities of any events or developments as would have occurred during lesson time, informally adopting the role of teacher-supervision.

The outcomes were a situation where teacher-student relations soured, with tensions and conflicts becoming a common feature as the teacher frantically made efforts to stamp their authority and manage the learning processes, while the student(s), misguided by the notion that one is protected by the school authorities, challenged, disobeyed and disregarded the teachers’ position.

The situation has deteriorated into cases where teachers are unable to control the students in the school, with students only recognising the authority of the school administrators, being the ones giving them instructions and orders to carry out those roles.

These administrative strategies come on the background of an assumption that the student would provide updated and correct narratives of the pedagogical transpirations in the educational institutions, without taking cognisance of the ripple effects on the learning of the student, relations between teachers and students, as well as the long term effects on the pedagogical products.

The results are that students lose big time as once the teachers realise the trends, they seize to play an active agency of Education, neglects the troublesome students, eventually affecting the quality of teacher preparedness for the subject lessons and develops negative attitudes towards students or school administrators.

Actual efforts will then be expended on attempts to avoid conflicts with students in the processes of teaching/learning, and the standards and quality of Education offered to the students/ school is compromised, and off course, to the detriment of the students and the parents who pay the school fees and related costs.

The fundamental questions raised are: ls the student still coming to school for learning? Who is teaching who when a student is issued with an assessment form by the school authorities to appraise the teacher? Is the school system doing justice to the personality, standard of Education of the student as expected by the parents/guardian’s?

Is the school still playing its role of providing relevant and quality education to the students and the parents compared to the public schools? Is money now the most important variable in this equation than the future life of the student?

SHOULD EDUCATION BE PRIVATISED IN THE FIRST INSTANCE?

What role, & using which mechanisms should the government employ to remedy these diversions?

The deterioration in the economic sectors of the country has brought more harm than good as men and women are now venturing into all deemed income generating projects, a move that has seen the sprouting of these said private schools. The government of Zimbabwe has forsaken what was once its epical model: quality, relevant and efficient education system.

Much as the indigenised curriculum, ZIMSEC has its limitations, the importation of Cambridge Curriculum has seen the re-emergence of the so called expatriate teachers from across the divide of the globe, Asia dominating on the pretext of acquisition of expert skills and knowledge of the administration and management of Cambridge examinations.

Snap observations have, however, demonstrated otherwise, as many from countries such as Philippine, Turkey, among others, have proven to be mere job seekers running away from the properties in their home countries, yet lack basic administration, management and knowledge depth compared to locally trained staff.

In the majority of cases, these expatriates have also tended to propagate racism against their black counterparts as they appoint each other to management positions, disregarding the qualifications of other members of the staff available at the institutions or bad and poor personnel recruitment systems that tend to take on board an employee without a basic teaching qualifications, merely for exploitation purposes through under payments, segregating practices and worse, without any staff development programmes in place.

Abuse of staff is rampant as employees are procedurally dismissed, denied leave days, gratuities and pensions at the worst. It remains to be proved whether these schools are registered properly and are emitting taxes to the government.

It is true from an economics stand point that privatisation of economic sectors pays dividends.

However, merit commodities such as education need proper considerations before decisions are formally and informally approved as the short and long run impacts will cost generations and economies lifetime costs difficult to repair.

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