Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
The opening of new schools across the country has increased the demand for teachers as teachers’ unions call on the government to invest in education by prioritizing recruitment.
Last year’s statistics indicated that there were over 4.6 million learners in Zimbabwe and almost 140,000 teachers.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education needs at least 20,000 additional teachers to fill the critical manpower gap in the education sector, science subjects and early childhood development classes (ECD) being the most affected.
The government has revised the number of teachers required upwards due to the need for social distancing in schools following the Covid-19 outbreak.
This year, the government recruited 5,000 teachers in addition to the 3,816 teachers employed last year. Of the 3,816 teachers, 835 of them replaced educators who did not report for work after the previous recruitment exercise in 2020.
As part of the implementation of Vision 2030 anchored on the National Development Strategy 1 (SND1), the Government has approved the construction of 3,000 new schools by 2025.
There are more than 10,000 schools with a total enrollment of 4,659,993. The construction project will be implemented in phases next year starting with 100 and 144 21st century model public primary and secondary schools spread across the country.
A primary and secondary boarding school with adequate state-of-the-art facilities will be constructed in each of the 72 districts.
The Treasury will fund the first 144 schools while public-private or joint venture agreements will be worked out to help build the other 3,000 schools.
In an interview yesterday, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Ms. Tumisang Thabela, said that the country’s education system continues to develop due to demographic changes.
“You will notice that the education system expands as demographics change. As new settlements emerge, we also get new schools. In 2020 we had 9,600 schools but when we did our census last year the number had risen to 10,167 and the figure continues to rise,” she said.
“It’s a moving target so we can never give a fixed number to say that we need such a particular number of teachers. In terms of the number of teachers we need as a country, our estimate in our last exercise indicated that we were short about 20,000 teachers.
Ms. Thabela said the number of teachers required depends on enrolments.
Last year, in December, the Ministry of Education of Rwanda and the Ministry of Civil Service, Labor and Social Welfare of Zimbabwe signed a memorandum on the exchange of educational personnel and expertise.
This was followed by the publication of a recruitment manual on May 4 this year to guide the process of recruiting and employing Zimbabwean teachers to work in Rwanda.
Following an agreed business plan, Zimbabwe shared with Rwanda a list of 473 recommended candidates for Rwanda to register them in the online recruitment system.
Ms Thabela said the Treasury had given her ministry the green light this year to employ 5,000 people.
“In terms of recruiting teachers, this year we had the opportunity to recruit 5,000 and so far we have recruited around 4,000. Only last week we had the final recruitment list and we urge teachers to visit the district offices where they had actually applied for their recruitment,” she said.
“We encourage these teachers to take up their positions quickly so that if there is a shortage, we can then fill them.”
Ms Thabela said her ministry had requested 10,000 teachers this year but only received funding for 5,000 teachers.
“The gap is still there, but the Government, also depending on the budget available to it, continues to grant us funding. Once we get approval from the Treasury to employ them, we recruit them,” she said.
The chief executive of the Zimbabwe Teachers Union (Zimta), Dr Sifiso Ndlovu, said recruiting teachers is a welcome initiative that should be done annually and in large numbers.
He, however, urged the government to invest more in education in line with NDS1 by recruiting more teachers to address the problems of declining teacher-student ratio.
“We said we wanted more teachers in the schools because there are not enough due to early retirements, deaths and resignations. The recruitment is a welcome move, but we won’t be very happy because it has little impact,” he said.
Dr Ndlovu said each of the country’s 16 teacher training colleges produces an average of 300 teachers a year.
“According to the new curriculum, the government should reduce the teacher-student ratio by employing more teachers. We have a number of qualified teachers hanging around,” he said.
“Since 2016, we haven’t had enough teachers because the government was just replacing those who died, retired or resigned. In our opinion, we are saying that the government should allocate more resources to education. – @mashnets