'Teachers' incentives full of challenges'

HARARE - Lazarus Dokora (LD), the minister of Primary and Secondary Education talks to Daily News reporter Mugove Tafirenyika (MT) over the changes that he has introduced in the
education sector since his appointment last year.

Below are excerpts of the interview. 

MT: Since you came into office, you introduced a raft of changes into the sector. What informed your changes?

LD: The raft of changes in the Education Sector were informed by the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act 2013, which regards education as a basic right to which every
Zimbabwean child is entitled.

In line with the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) economic blueprint, the ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, like any other
government ministry or department, is re-orienting itself through formulation of policies and programmes guided by the results-based management (RBM) system which focuses on clear
organisational vision, mission, values, key result areas, goals and objectives which are translated into a results framework of outcomes, outputs, strategies and resources.

MT: Some of the changes such as the issue of teachers’ incentives have courted controversy with observers saying you are on a mission to undo all that your predecessor David Coltart did. What do you have to say about that?

LD: That is not true. As I have explained in one of the preceding sections, all the changes are justifiable. My predecessor assumed office when teachers were only receiving $100
allowance per month like any other civil servant then.

Even my predecessor did not regard teachers’ incentives as something permanent but rather as a stop-gap measure pending the improvement of conditions of services for the teachers.

It may be instructive to note that only 38 percent of the schools were giving incentives to their teachers in a system of 8 300 school institutions.

I am sure you will agree with me that initially although the teachers’ incentive scheme was a noble idea during the economic hardship era, it has been fraught with a number of
challenges such as uneven distribution, abuse, protests, litigations, inter alia, leading to disharmony among teachers and poor service delivery in the entire ministry.

Insinuating that I am here to undo what my predecessor did can only be referred to as a figment of imagination.

MT: Parents are also livid that the ministry banned extra- lessons even when they feel that their children need them. Can you clarify this position because parents do not seem to understand the fact that schools can apply to conduct extra-lessons.

LD: Currently, the policy allows all those taking public examinations to apply for holiday lessons. Clearance is done through the normal ministry channels.

Considerations will be given to the classes that lost teaching time due to unforeseen circumstances, limited facilities and the need to maximise the utilisation of available
expertise and facilities.

It was also observed that extra lessons were being used for commercial purposes to the extent that even ECD learners were being required to attend extra lessons during holidays.

The manner in which extra-lessons were conducted, how they were conducted and places where they were conducted raised a lot of questions as to the integrity of having them at all.

As the ministry responsible, we came up with the regulatory framework which schools can follow in order to conduct extra-lessons.

Heads of schools are advised to visit our district offices or provincial offices for proper guidance and assistance in this regard.

MT: You have also indicated that there is a fund to enhance the capacity of educators by furthering their education. Can you inform the nation on how the fund will be managed because there are fears that some teachers may not benefit as the facility is open to abuse. Some stakeholders suspect that it will only benefit teachers in urban areas as well as those who have Zanu PF links.

LD: The recently launched teacher capacity development programme is a carefully designed programme that is intended to improve the capacity of teachers in the identified areas of
need e.g. Science, Maths, Humanities, Tech/Voc (technical or vocational) and ICT.

The application form designed for the programme does not have a section that requires the potential beneficiaries to reveal their political affiliation.

Selection will be overseen by professional committees from school level to ensure the integrity of the selection process.

Our vision is to be the leading provider of quality education for socio-economic transformation.

At the centre of learning is the teacher who should be competent, adaptable to changes and innovative in imparting knowledge and skills to learners.

This is a national programme without any conditionalities attached to it and stakeholders are hereby advised to embrace the programme on purely professional grounds.

MT: There are reports in some quarters that the permanent secretary Constance Chigwamba has told teachers that the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) is a banned union. What is the correct position as far as you are concerned?

LD: You need to verify with the permanent secretary whether indeed she did say that.

However, PTUZ is one of the registered teachers’ associations that the ministry recognises and works with, representing the interests of teachers.

It is not banned and operates in accordance with its mandate and under the laws of this country.

MT: How do you describe your relationship with teachers’ unions?

LD: There is a cordial relationship between the ministry and the teachers’ associations.

The ministry meets regularly with the teachers’ associations to discuss issues of mutual interest.

The overarching role is to champion the interests of their members in relation to teaching-learning. There are three registered and recognised teachers’ associations in this country,
that is the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta), Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (TUZ) and PTUZ.

You will recall that I am a career educationist who has enjoyed harmonious relations with teachers’ unions over the years.

Teachers’ unions are important stakeholders in the education sector for their input on policy matters, research and development, moral and material support to teachers and learners.

In fact, the teachers’ unions complement government efforts in as far as conditions of service are concerned.

MT: There are also reports that there are circulars that were generated by the ministry without your knowledge leading to speculation that your relationship with the permanent
secretary is far from cordial. Could you comment on the allegations?

LD: Procedurally, all policy circulars are discussed at heads of department meetings and can only be dispatched to the recipients after the minister’s approval.

If there were any circulars that found their way to the recipients without my approval, it was a result of inadvertence.

I have a functional relationship with the permanent secretary where I focus on policy and the secretary focuses on administrative and managerial issues in the implementation of
policy.

Your question seems to suggest policy inconsistencies in the ministry which is non-existent.

There is a consultative process that interrogates policy issues before circulars are sent out, hence the allegation is baseless and without substance.

MT: There is the topical issue of a teacher who was given a goat as a token of appreciation for the work he is doing at his school but was withdrawn after auditors raised the red
flag. Do you think schools should not reward their outstanding staff?

LD: Ministry considers it humane and proper to celebrate and reward achievement.

Such a reward is a token of appreciation that is different from incentives that are given to all and sundry and not performance-based.

This is a once-off token of appreciation to a teacher who had produced the best results in the province.

It should be allowed and not stifled by bookish auditing. The hosting of merit awards is testimony of the value we attach to outstanding performance by our educators.

MT: The land reform programme led to the establishment of satellite schools to cater for resettled farmers’ children. However, the schools are using dilapidated buildings as classrooms and teachers’ quarters. What have you done as a ministry to address the situation?

LD: The ministry did a school mapping exercise and identified 1 425 schools that have dilapidated structures and 631 new schools that need to be constructed.

To address this problem, the ministry conducted a schools infrastructure conference and expo to create space for partners and stakeholders to contribute to schools’ infrastructure
development.

The fiscus has also put in place budgetary allocation for school infrastructure development and rehabilitation.

Efforts are underway to secure funding from other sources. School infrastructure development is a multi-stakeholder activity that involves community participation through School
Development Committees, church organisations and other stakeholders.

MT: Your predecessor sourced textbooks for schools that are currently being used. Is there any plan by government to replace them as they get worn out?

LD: It has always been government’s obligation to provide per capita grants and tuition funds to schools for the purchase and replenishment of textbooks and other teaching-learning
materials.

However, communities, responsible authorities and School Development Committees also contribute towards the provision of teaching-learning materials. Unicef did not invent itself in
the inclusive government.

Unicef has accompanied this country in our quest for quality education even in the face of hardships visited on us by the West on account of our land reform.

Comments (7)

Well answered Dokora especially on the teachers's incentives. Teachers are getting way to greedy considering that every other civil servant is not demanding incentives to do their work. its true there is no longer teaching in schools with teachers demanding that our kids pay for extra lessons even grade ones. the majority of parents are 100% behind you Dokora. the few who are responding negatively to your policies through the media and papers are actually teachers in disguise as parents supporting incentives and paid for extra lessons. don't listen to them coz all the non teaching parents are behind you.

niki - 27 August 2014

Well answered Dokora especially on the teachers's incentives. Teachers are getting way to greedy considering that every other civil servant is not demanding incentives to do their work. its true there is no longer teaching in schools with teachers demanding that our kids pay for extra lessons even grade ones. the majority of parents are 100% behind you Dokora. the few who are responding negatively to your policies through the media and papers are actually teachers in disguise as parents supporting incentives and paid for extra lessons. don't listen to them coz all the non teaching parents are behind you.

niki - 27 August 2014

the money which is meant t capacitate teachers is a welcome gesture but l think the government must begin by giving first priority to those who are already studying in those subject areas.

chief - 27 August 2014

INCENTIVES HAVE BEEN A DIVISIVE INSTRUMENT ADOPTED BY THE MINISTRY. RURAL COMMUNITIES FAILED TO PAY TEACHERS THESE INCENTIVES CAUSING FRUSTRATION AND DISGRUNTLEMENT AMONG RURAL MEMBERS. THOSE CALLING FOR THEIR RETURN SHOULD ALSO COME UP WITH SOLUTIONS TO RURAL TEACHERS' FATE. IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE GOVERNMENT TO PAY ITS WORKERS NOT PARENTS. ITS AGAIN QUITE UNSETTLING TO HEAR MPS AND SENATORS WHO WERE VOTED INTO OFFICE BY PARENTS TURNING AROUND ASKING THE SAME PARENTS TO PAY TEACHERS. I FIND THEIR CALL COUNTERPRODUCTIVE AND SERIOUS ABDICATION OF RESPONSIBILITY BY THESE LAWMAKERS. THEY SHOULD HELP THE GOVERNMENT TO COME UP WITH POLICIES THAT WILL GENERATE FUNDS TO PAY PUBLIC WORKERS.

zimangalo moyo - 27 August 2014

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GALLERYCARTIDGES - 28 August 2014

If you think teachers do not deserve incentives, watch the results of your child when O level and A level results get released next year in Feb/March. We want to see who is to have a longer laugh

Danai Pazvagozha - 28 August 2014

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