Friday, October 10, 2008

No School in Zimbabwe

from the Australian

THE class of 2008 will not receive an education.

Since the school year began in January, Zimbabwe's 4.5million pupils have had a total of 23 uninterrupted classroom days, teaching unions say -- a sorry state for a country that once had the highest standard of education in Africa.

President Robert Mugabe became an African hero of rare distinction when he carried out a big expansion of the education system in the early years of his rule. But, as with most of the country's infrastructure, that system is now collapsing.

The national high school leaving pass rate in the mid-1990s was 72 per cent. Last year, it crashed to 11 per cent. Many schools recorded zero passes....

In January, teachers went on a prolonged strike over their salaries. In April, Mr Mugabe's ZANU-PF party accused them of supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change during the March elections and blamed them for the President's first-round defeat.

Six teachers were murdered and thousands were assaulted by ZANU-PF militia in the violence that marred the second-round presidential election on June 27.

Schools were looted and turned into torture centres. Teachers disappeared. Many are still unable to return for fear of being disciplined.

Now the coup de grace to the education system is being delivered by hyperinflation. Teachers had their salaries doubled last week to the equivalent of $14.50 a month -- barely enough for bus fares and bread for four days.

The handful of private and state schools where parents can pay large supplements to teachers' salaries are the only ones operating. In most schools where teachers do turn up, pupil attendance is dwindling.

"We come to school and we entertain the kids until 10am, then we send them home," said Amos Musoni, from Sengwe Primary School in the south of the country.

"There were 10 teachers last week, out of 32. They are there because they have no money to leave. We don't even have chalk, or red pens, never mind books."...

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