A few months before the national lockdown was effected in March 2020, a video went viral across social media platforms, and it did for all the wrong reasons. The video showed a scene shot from a classroom with about 8 male and female students in their school uniforms getting cozy, kissing and fondling each other on camera. This cannot be an isolated case of students straying away from their main purpose at schools once their teachers are not in sight to monitor them. The continued declaration of incapacitation by teachers has the potential to leave our education system permanently dented if left unattended.
Teachers have declared incapacitation in the past and ways have always been found to resolve the problem. This time however, the coming in of the Covid-19 pandemic and the general economic challenges in the country have made salary negotiations between the Government and the teachers’ unions go longer than expected, at the high expense of students. Most students in examination classes which opened about a month ago have reported that teachers are not showing up for lessons, if they even show up to the schools. Not only does this force students to start writing their examinations in December without covering everything in their syllabi, it also makes it easier for the rogue ones to do as they please, and even spread their negative influence to other students. If the problem is not resolved soon enough, cases of drug abuse, bullying and indiscrete behaviour in school swill become widespread.
Most students are turning to taking up extra lessons to fill up for the time they are not learning at school. But extra lessons are just exactly that – EXTRA. They should work as supplementary or complementary lessons for the actual full time lessons at school. What’s more, it has already been established that a large number of these extra lessons tutors are not even qualified. It takes less than 10 minutes for anyone to create and set up a poster outside their home advertising extra lessons and start earning money, even without a relevant qualification. This will in the long run, highly compromise our education system which has for long stood among the best. All the strides that have been made in advancing and promoting the right to quality affordable education in Zimbabwe could easily go to waste if no proper action is taken.
Every student has different potential from the other, as well as different levels of understanding. Some are quick learners while others are not so quick at learning or understanding concepts. Leaving them to work on their own without the guidance of their teachers is tantamount to disaster. This is especially true for students in rural schools where access to radio lessons and the internet for further research is limited, and most parents may not afford to send their children for extra lessons.
While it may be difficult to meet all the teachers’ expectations when it comes to their remuneration, it is important that their employer finds common ground with them and find ways to shield them from the ongoing economic meltdown. The hyper-inflatory environment currently prevailing is one hurdle which Zimbabwe will at some point surely overcome, but when it is finally overcome, it is vital to ensure that it’s not going to leave permanent damage to sectors of a value as great as that of education.
– Paul Vagere