New school curriculum 'beyond reach of many'

HARARE - A list of demands for children starting their grade 1 under the Primary and Secondary Education’s new curriculum has drawn fire from members of the public, who say it is too expensive for ordinary parents and guardians.

According to the demands, a parent has no fork out between $70 and $100 just to buy the supporting items that are required. Some of the items include a toy laptop, clock face, one rim bond paper, four surgical blades, pencils, a ball, skipping rope, calculator and electrical toys.

The new curriculum was introduced during former Primary and Secondary minister Lazarus Dokora’s era and commenced at the beginning of the year.

It is in line with recommendations made by the Nziramasanga Commission set up in 1998 under the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Education and Training.

However, some of the issues have become a burden to parents, most of whom are unemployed.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe expressed his concern on Twitter on some of the demands for grade 1 pupils, which he said are

beyond reach for many parents.

“Grade one requirements for new curriculum, do they think of the unemployed parents and those in rural areas?” he asked.

Efforts to get a comment from Primary and Secondary Education minister Paul Mavhima yesterday could not yield results, as he was attending the Zanu PF Congress.

Many Zimbabweans are living below the poverty datum line, with a lot of them surviving on less than a dollar a day, owing to the unfriendly economic situation in the country.

Some parents are even struggling to raise school fees for their children, making demands under the new curriculum a further burden to the already cash-strapped society.

A parent who spoke to the Daily News on condition of anonymity, said the situation is not sustainable, hence a lot of children will drop out of school, when education is a right for all in terms of the Constitution.

“It is very expensive, because even the teachers do not encourage the children to bring and share. Some of our children are being left out during classes, as we do not have adequate money to buy the required items. The schools themselves do not have the resources, so we try by all means to run around to get the money but still we can’t raise enough.”

Several civil society organisations that include Tag a Life International in partnership with the Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children, Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, Forum for African Women Educationalists Zimbabwe, Research Advocacy Unit, Justice for Children’s Trust, Katswe Sisterhood and World Vision Zimbabwe, have also written a petition to Mavhima through a campaign dubbed Every Child in School (ECIS), demanding free compulsory education.

“The ECIS initiative understands that education is a compulsory right in Zimbabwe, and every child has the right to attain basic education according to Zimbabwe’s Constitution Section 75.

“We highlight the Zimbabwe Constitution which, in Section 75(a), stipulates that the State must take all practical measures to promote a basic State-funded and compulsory education for children.

“The State is also expected ‘to take reasonable legislation and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realisation of the right set out’ (Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act, 2013,” the petition reads.