The Sunday News
Tinomuda Chakanyuka, Senior Reporter
THE Government has temporarily shelved plans to recruit more than 7 000 new teachers because of lack of funds.
Last year, the Government froze recruitment of civil servants as part of a staff rationalisation programme to cut the civil service wage bill, which takes close to 80 percent of the national budget, but a special dispensation was given to critical posts.
Last year the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education had said the education sector was exempted from the freeze and more than 7 000 teachers were to be recruited at the beginning of the year. However, in an interview on Friday, the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Cde Prisca Mupfumira, said the Government did not have the money to cater for new teachers hence could not go ahead with the recruitment. She said the intention to recruit teachers was still there but Treasury has not given them the go ahead.
“Intentions are still there but at the moment Treasury is yet to get the money required to pay those teachers. We are still waiting for Treasury’s concurrence. It is only when we get the money that we will start recruiting. At the moment there is no money,” she said.
Cde Mupfumira said she could not give a date when the Treasury will get the resources to cater for the new teachers. Teacher representatives said the continued delays in the recruitment of additional teachers has put pressure on schools and this was a big threat to the implementation of the new curriculum.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Mr Sifiso Ndlovu said the new curriculum has increased teachers’ workload and there was a need for additional staff to be recruited to ease the situation.
He said the new learning areas such as Mass Displays, Visual and Performing Arts needed to be taught by skilled personnel, which personnel was not immediately available among the teaching staff complement.
“Teachers are overloaded. We felt the shortage when we were using the old curriculum, now with the new curriculum that has more learning areas it has become worse,” he said.
Mr Ndlovu added, “The new areas need skilled personnel which are not available. There is therefore a critical need for additional teachers in those areas. There is a need to incorporate people with those skills into the system and train them to be teachers in-service.”
He said there was a need for an all stakeholders conference to discuss issues around the new curriculum, among them recruitment of additional teachers. The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education requires about 131 000 teachers against an existing complement of 122 000. Following the announcement of the recruitment plans last year, Civil Service Commission offices in different parts of the country have been inundated by inquiries from qualified teachers seeking employment.
Reports indicate that in some areas, some schools were now hiring teachers who are paid by the parents to deal with the shortages.
Nonetheless, the Ministry Primary and Secondary Education is seeking to improve the teacher pupil ratio as it starts implementing the new curriculum. For ECD the Ministry desired a ratio of 1:20 while for Grades 3-7 a ratio of 1:40 and for secondary a minimum ratio of one teacher per every 25-30 pupils.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Dr Lazarus Dokora has been on record saying that Government was committed to addressing teacher shortages. He reiterated the commitment at last year’s World Teachers’ Day commemorations.
“On under-staffing resulting in high teacher/pupil ratios and heavy work-loads, the Government will be recruiting more qualified teachers in collaboration with the Civil Service Commission and Treasury as revenue inflows improve and increase the number of schools to accommodate more learners and teachers,” he was quoted saying. Recruitment of teachers is also meant to respond to Government’s plans to increase schools countrywide. The Government is entering joint ventures with local and foreign investors to build 2 056 additional schools around the country. Most of the schools are set to be constructed in resettlement areas, where the shortage of schools is most felt.
Most resettlement areas in the country do not have enough schools and are being serviced by satellite schools, most which do not have adequate infrastructure. In 2015 the Government announced that cites for the new schools had been identified and the tendering process for the construction was already in motion.