Teacher-pupil ratio cause for concern

EDITOR — The teacher to pupil ratio in most primary and secondary schools in Zimbabwe currently stands at 1:50 and in some extreme cases one teacher to 80 learners, a scenario which definitely compromises quality of the end result.

Just imagine how parents are traumatised and tormented by just one or two kids of ECD level at home, what about the teacher who is expected to take good care of 80 of such notorious kids.

Twenty-five to 30 learners is quiet a reasonable number which a teacher can effectively handle.

Two years ago, government through the Primary and Secondary Education ministry ordered the freezing of teacher recruitment citing financial constraints.

This did not only affect newly-qualified teachers waiting for employment but also learners and the few teachers who are carrying heavy loads covering up for those classes without teachers.

Researchers have observed that there are quiet a good number of factors that affect pupils’ participation and performance due to large classes.

These factors include low participation, unnecessary movements, breaking out of fights during lessons, scramble for limited resources, failure to participate in groups and domination by other pupils during group work among other plethora of factors.

The teacher cannot effectively attend to the needs of all the learners as some slow learners need one-on-one interaction with the teacher to master some problematic concepts.

The educator cannot also effectively give written exercises to 80 learners and mark all of them before giving them new work.

Large class sizes do not allow for critical thinking, it stifles student’s creativity when activity-based and child-centred methods are not used.

Although the newly-introduced curriculum sounds good, it has received a lot of criticism from different stakeholders including teachers themselves.

Educators are complaining that the new curriculum has increased their workload as it brought new learning areas with a lot of content and to make matters worse with no teaching materials that often include media aides.

According to minister Dokora, the new curriculum ushers in a paradigm shift to the education system.

It will expose the learner to the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (Stem) and Heritage Studies.

In addition, learners will be exposed to life and work learning contexts through life skills orientation programmes.

The curriculum is also geared at improving quality and access to education from infant to secondary levels.

Some School Development Committees (SDCs) in urban primary schools have recently resorted to employing unemployed qualified teachers to teach classes which for a long time have not had teachers.

These SDCs are responsible for salaries and other expenses towards the recruited teacher.

This initiative is noble as it enhances pass rate and reduces pressure on teachers.

It may be a noble initiative to rescue overburdened teachers as well as learners themselves before the situation is of hand.

Teachers’ unions which include Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) and Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) are also appealing to the government to resume recruitment of teachers so as to improve performance in the education sector.

Tendai Guta

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