Thursday, February 07, 2008

It's getting difficult to keep kids in school

From African Path:

Once Africa's best, Zimbabwe's educational system is now in crisis. Tens of thousands of teachers in state schools are constantly on a 'go-slow' action demanding a wage hike. There is an exodus of teachers to better paying jobs outside the country. The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) -- one of two teachers' representative bodies -- estimates that more than 15,000 teachers left the teaching profession in 2006.

Those who stay behind spend most of the time moonlighting. Even head- teachers at private schools -- where quality of education is better -- are demanding bribes of up to 200 South African rands or 50 U.S. dollars in hard currency to enroll children.

"I had to pay money in foreign currency to secure a place for my daughter at a private school in Harare," Mufundisi told IPS.

A teacher at a rural Zimbabwe school who spoke to IPS on condition of anonymity said, "I am quitting and going to South Africa. I have sold so many text books from my department library to supplement my meagre salary, I have to make a move before I am caught."

President Robert Mugabe's investment in education after Zimbabwe's independence in 1980 has generally been seen as the highlight of his increasingly autocratic 27-year rule, although he inherited most of the infrastructure from the former white colonial government.

PTUZ estimates that between four and five children share a textbook. There are often four children to one desk in the poorly equipped classrooms.

Students are fainting in class from hunger. Girls are missing school during the menstrual cycle because they cannot afford to buy sanitary pads. School dropout rates have shot up. Children are quitting school to supplement family incomes as vendors, commuter omnibus conductors, even sex workers.

A price-freeze ordered by the government in June last year left store shelves bare of most basic commodities, but the freeze was eased in phases to restore the viability of producers and businesses. However, supplies of goods have remained erratic.

Some Zimbabwean residential schools -- hit by severe food shortages -- were reported to be insisting that students bring their own supplies, according to Zimbabwean private media. The PTUZ said several boarding schools had cut short the last term of 2007 after running out of food....

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