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Education system poised for major overhaul

20 Sep 2018 at 06:40hrs | Views
As the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education our objective is to take Zimbabwean education to the 21st century and there has to be an educational transformation and full implementation of the competency-based curriculum. But as we do that all the pillars have to be in place.

Firstly, our teachers have to be adequate with an appropriate teacher-learner ratio which is, 25 for infant, 40 for junior school and 35 for secondary. We also have to make sure that our teachers are capacitated. It's not just teacher professional standards at the establishment of the Teaching Professions Council, but it's making sure that our teachers have been trained adequately.

These teachers have to have a new orientation towards the competence-based curriculum. They have to have a new mindset that allows them to be catalysts for socio-economic transformation. This is what it's all about. In addition to that we need to advocate better working conditions for our teachers so that they can deliver on the new curriculum. Secondly, the infrastructure has to be in place. We have a deficit of about 2 000 schools and we have this year built 17, which we are completing by October. We are looking for further resources for us to build more schools so that we can go on another 20 or so schools starting maybe by the end of this year or early next year. But we are also working at joint venture partnerships so that we can go for 100 schools. Once that proof of concept is in, then we continue to roll out until we have done all the 2 000 schools that are needed.

Building schools will allow us to reach those areas that don't have schools like in Kanyemba and other places in Mbire District. But we have shortages in Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North and Gokwe North, for example. We also have to make sure that at existing schools have modernised that infrastructure, provided water reticulation, energy in the form of electricity and following that ICT, infrastructure, including computers as well as connectivity. On schools that are not registered as ZIMSEC examination centres leading pupils to walk long distances to sit for examinations, we need to address that as well.

There are certain standards that are supposed to be met to ensure that a school qualifies to be an examination centre. First, the school has to be registered with this ministry. Minimal standards now state at least two by two blocks, an administration block, adequate ablution facilities and a secure room for holding examinations. So the ministry registers a school on the basis of minimal standards and ZIMSEC is the one that requires a secure room for it to be an examination centre. Now what I have done in all those cases is to make sure that I cut that bureaucratic red tape and get those schools to be registered. I will directly get in touch with the DSA in places like Muzarabani and bring in schools ready for registration so as to avoid inconveniences for our pupils.

Fourthly, we also have to make sure that our legislation, which we are in the process of changing right now, has been changed so that we have the correct institutional framework to move the education sector forward. We need to make sure that our research and development area, which drives innovation in the education sector has also been fully developed and we are doing that. So as a medium- to long-term vision, this is what we have, but immediately we need to make sure that we have provided all teaching and learning materials that are required for the competence-based curriculum. We have done well so far, we have provided upwards of almost 6 000 schools with teaching and learning materials for those classes that are already on the platform.

Now we want to make sure that as Grade Five comes on to the new curriculum, we also make sure that next year they start with the teaching and learning materials that are needed. We need to continue with training of our teachers. We need to continue sourcing resources, so that we are effectively and efficiently on that competence- based curriculum. So far we have had progress when it comes to this curriculum. The first thing that has happened is a lot of resources have been ploughed into its implementation and the benefits are starting to show. Those who attended the Harare Agricultural Show would have been able to tell the innovations that are coming out of or schools. Most of our schools have improved so much both in terms of just ambience, but also in terms of projects that they are doing in line with the updated curriculum. Learners are excelling in various disciplines; some of which were considered to be extra-curricular studies, but the way they are performing in those areas is giving hope to those that are academically gifted in performance arts areas, fine art areas.

They are getting knowledgeable in agriculture very early in life, so I can assure you that after about three years most of our learners will not fail. We will only have learners who would have chosen to pursue certain paths. Even after O-Level, they will be able to sustain their own lives because they will be given the foundation in our schools. It's beginning to show and parents are not blind to that, so even though there are still some teething problems, we are seeing an acceptance that this is the way for the country.

As you may be aware, the vision of my ministry is in support of the President's vision for upper middle income status by 2030 by providing human capital. It only takes place with transformation in every sector of a country's economy, which means the human capital should be there in order for transformation to take place. And we as the education sector have to do that. So transformation! Transformation! Transformation! Modernisation! Modernisation! Modernisation! I have said we have done well in Africa. We compete extremely well in Africa, but we now need to say, 'Can we compete effectively at the international level?'

There are those countries that have been doing so well, for example, Finland, South Korea and Singapore. All these countries are in what is called thye Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). They do assessments to rank education systems across the world. We need to strive to get to that Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). It's for OECD countries, but other countries can participate. OECD countries are 36, but 80 have been participating. They look at the performance of 15-year-olds from the education sector of each country.

They look at things like performance in Science, Mathematics, innovation, financial literacy and we as Zimbabwe need to strive to compete in these assessments. When we get there we then know that we have brought our education system into the 21st century. And all these things that am talking about have to be in place and my ministry is determined. I can also assure you that we will continue to deal with issues of cheating and fraudulent activities. You know how we have dealt with issues of cheating as far as examinations are concerned, and we will leave no stone unturned to make sure that culprits found within our own institutions are dealt with in a manner that will provide deterrence to whoever is doing that.

As Zimbabweans, when we accept other countries' certificates, if they are fraudulent we can detect that. But if fraudulent certificates are coming from our own institutions, I can assure you that we will get to the bottom of it so that we avoid that. In the meantime we want our pupils to be healthy, hence, we have joined in the fight against cholera.

Our technical team, working with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the WASH sections, has come up with a school system response, which entails the following: distribution of clean treated water with trucks and bowsers, availing of soap and aqua tablets to the affected and at risk schools. Here in Harare this work is being coordinated by the Provincial Education Director working together with a team from UNICEF. We have also activated an SMS platform with school heads across the country for quick and rapid update, especially on clean water sources for drinking, washing and functional toilets and where they have challenges they can report to us out of that.

Then UNICEF stands ready to assist the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education with internationally applicable standard prevention methods that will go on to that SMS, so that we can have our schools ready to deal with most of these issues. We also think that schools should continue with these measures in place, so that we do not lose out on time. That is the situation as far as cholera is concerned. What we have now found out is that our learners may actually be safer at school during the day because any case of suspected cholera can be immediately reported and learners taken to hospital. Prof Paul Mavima is Primary and Secondary Education Minister. He was responding to questions posed to him in an interview with The Herald Features Writer, Rumbidzai Ngwenya.

Source - the herald
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