Rural teachers, pupils suffering in silence

HARARE - Zimbabwe is respected for strides it has made in the education sector since independence.

But some places are lagging behind in the quality of education and results produced. This challenge is mostly found in rural areas which have been performing dismally in the top schools rankings.

Community Affairs Editor, Margaret Chinowaita (MC) spoke to Obert Masaraure (OM), the Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (RTUZ) president. Find below excerpts of the interview.  

MC: What are the main challenges facing children in rural schools?

OM: Many pupils are walking long distances to school something which negatively impacts on performance of rural pupils who end up sleeping in classes during lessons. For example some Grade One pupils at Magamba Primary School in Wedza walk for over eight kilometres from Rundu Village.

Rural pupils only study during the day unless they want to risk losing eye sight and exposing themselves to fire-related domestic accidents by using candles and other primitive sources of light.

Some pupils from child-headed families have little time to concentrate on their studies since they have to balance between studying and working strenuously in fields for survival.

The learning environment is deplorable and the structures are in a dilapidated state especially in resettlement areas. At worst some pupils learn under trees exposed to bad weather conditions and lessons are sometimes abandoned in bad weather conditions for instance at Hambakwe Primary School in Hurungwe.

The bulk of the teachers in rural areas are less experienced, under qualified and demotivated to work under such conditions, thereby subjecting pupils to low quality education.

Lack of appreciation of children’s rights by rural communities renders most pupils vulnerable to abuse. The common forms of abuse being physical, sexual and neglect.

MC: What are the major problems facing teachers in rural schools?

OM: Social isolation, teachers in rural areas are isolated from families, friends and the world at large as they cannot communicate due to network challenges. Teachers at Dindi High School in Pfungwe walk for a distance of four kilometres to make a single phone call.

Transport to and from work is a challenge. Teachers at Chasiyatende in Chivi rely on one bus which plies the route thrice a week and in the most alarming circumstance in areas such as Mwenezi, to be specific at Gwamarara Primary School, teachers walk more than 20 kilometres to reach the transport pick up point.

Shortage of accommodation is an acute challenge for most rural educators and some live in inhabitable sanctuaries. A case in point is that of teachers from schools like Sonopi, Sovelele in Mwenezi district.

Victimisation is another predominant phenomenon characterising the poverty-stricken rural teachers. The victimisation manifests through political violence and sexual abuse of female teachers. Taurai Zvarevapo now in South Africa who used to be a teacher in Mudzi District is still traumatised and can never contemplate coming back home.

Limited teaching aids and sources of material for teachers to effectively discharge their duties is another challenge confronting the rural teachers in Zimbabwe. In some areas they do not even have access to boards and chalks making teaching an oral process devoid of illustrations.

MC: What can the government do to make sure that there is improvement in rural schools?

OM: Our education system is teacher-centred yet in most cases the teachers are inexperienced, under-qualified and de-motivated.

It is against such a background that the government should firstly address the issues of skills flight and phobia to work in rural areas. They should do this by establishing flexible working conditions and give incentives to the rural teacher so as to attract the best brains to add value in the rural schools.

The government should pluck a feather from the Mexican model where teachers are stampeding to work in rural areas.

In our context, government should offer the following to retain and attract teachers; exemption from paying duty and taxes, flexible leave days, speed up the construction of proper, habitable and decent accommodation in rural schools, the electrification of rural areas, integration of teachers who had deserted the profession during the economic meltdown, digitalisation by June 2015.

Government must craft policies that enable teachers to accommodate the disabled in the rural communities. Empowerment should filter into the teaching community. Teachers should access farms, mining claims and any other sources of livelihood.

MC: How can teachers make do with what they have in rural areas to ensure good results? Is this possible?

OM: It is impossible and insurmountable because the teachers themselves are actually victims of the incumbent retrogressive system. The government should prioritise education as a means of empowering the marginalised communities; remember our President came from such a humble background.

The example set by the Japanese government who generously assisted in the construction of a state-of-the-art school in Bubi at a low cost of $110 000. On the other hand our very own government officials are on record for looting millions of dollars in shady deals. If only those millions were to be channelled in our education sector we would have since achieved the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on education.

MC: What is the maximum distance that a child walks to school in Zimbabwe?

OM: For secondary schools the distance is much longer compared to that of primary schools. In Hurungwe some pupils travel for more than 20km from Mbezo, Hambakwe, Mubhedha, Mandizha and Mupindi to reach the nearest secondary school in Chivende.

MC: Critics are saying Zimbabwe is not going to meet the MDG on universal access to primary education by this year. Looking at rural schools, where do you place the problem of failing to meet this target?

OM: Those are not critics but realists who are in touch with the factual realities on the ground. We should start setting our own feasible and sustainable targets as a country.

Those targets can only be set by a legitimate, accountable, and constitutionally adhering government which is for the people and by the people.

 

Comments (4)

Teachers in rural areas are no longer gullible as you might think. They will not join such fly-by-night unions, which are out to reap where they did not sow. Hameno vakadzidza vemumaguta vawataura iwe Masaraure, kuda ndovachaita izvozvo. We have been victims yes, as you rightly pointed out, of unscrupulous unions such as yours. So forget from us, chakachenjedza ndechakatanga mwachewe.

zindman - 2 March 2015

Vharazipi{VZ VZ} wakati hatiiti izvozvo isu, zvama Yuneni Yuneni{ma groups} Saka ita wega union yacho.

zindman - 2 March 2015

'zimbabwean people have been robbed/ fleeced their hard earned monies". its normal for people to treat anything new with caution. Mutezo walked free after stealing civil sevants monies on houses projects that never materialised. If its bona fide thats fine, than kunzwa kuti mari ye UNION yatenga fertiliser ne mombe.

X-MAN IV - 2 March 2015

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