Govt's teacher-pupil ratio backfires

HARARE - Teachers in rural and peri-urban areas are having to teach combined classes of as many as 100 pupils as the government policy of allocating educators according to the number of students at a school has backfired.

Marginalised children in rural and peri-urban government run primary schools where teachers’ multi-task between Early Childhood Development (ECD) and primary school classes, are bearing the full brunt of the crisis.

Masunda Primary School in Chikomba Central is one of the worst-hit schools as three teachers rotate duties of directing music, culture, sports and other extra-curricula activities while also sharing nine classes among them.

Chikomba Central MP Felix Mhona acknowledged that the education of hard-pressed children enrolled at cash-strapped government primary schools is being let down by the system.

He said there was an urgent need for a review of the primary teacher-pupil ratio as teachers were overwhelmed by duties and the number of classes they were simultaneously handling.

Government currently allocates one teacher for an average of 40 students per school.

Reached for comment on whether the pupil-teacher ratio was hampering effective learning, Education minister Lazarus Dokora could neither confirm nor deny only choosing to say “schools are on holiday”.

However, Chikomba Central legislator Mhona said the situation had escalated into a crisis.

“The pupil to teacher ratio is a crisis, it has been made worse by the fact that other schools are not getting enrolment because they are being shunned for having no electricity, no running water, and no computers,” he said.

“It has negatively impacted the education of the children that are left in these schools.”

The lawmaker said he was lobbying government to improve infrastructure at schools and also push legislation that does not leave marginalised children in the cold.

A teacher at Masunda Primary School who cannot be named since she was not authorised to speak to the media told the Daily News of the circumstances obtaining at the school.

The teacher said she simultaneously takes ECD A, B, Grade One and Two under one roof while the deputy headmaster takes grades three, four and five in one classroom.

The headmaster takes grades six and seven under one roof.

“The situation makes it impossible to go through the whole syllabus, so you touch on what you feel are the main things, but it still doesn’t do justice,” the teacher said.

Asked how they go through their class, the educationist said it was by sheer will.

“Well, I teach ECD A, B, Grade One and Two in one class because if you say ‘go outside’ while you teach others, hazvibude (it won’t work),” the teacher said.

“I start with ECD, then go to Grade One and then Grade Two, and then I come back again.”

“We are trying to work hard but it takes its toll on you. I always have headaches at the end of each day,” the teacher said.

“Our biggest problem is that we lag behind. If we could get one computer, maybe also a solar installed and boreholes sunk, our life would be much easier.

“There are only two boreholes, which are fast drying up. Right now, it is a holiday but water is already scarce.

“Next term we have advised our children to bring their own bottles of water, so that they have something to use”.

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