Home » Literacy » ’Education Remains Top Priority’ [interview]

ZIMBABWE rules the roost in literacy in Africa with many Zimbabweans being accommodated in the regional and international industrial hubs. However, despite the apparent success scored by the Government in the education sector, a myriad problems still persist. The Herald’s Senior Writer, Lovemore Ranga Mataire speaks to the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, Dr Olivia Muchena for an appraisal of developments in the sector.

Zimbabwe has been consistently ranked as the country with the highest literacy rate in Africa in recent years, what can you point out as the major ingredient for such an achievement?

There was a deliberate move on expansion of the education for all policy pronounced by President Mugabe in 1980. Subsequently, continuous budget support also had a hand in improving the sector as it got the highest allocation. So generally, the success can be attributed to the investment in the sector since 1980.

What is the state of the education sector in terms of producing productive citizenry in comparison with the high unemployment rate?

What is lacking is funding for job creation otherwise the sector is sound and producing productive citizens given that they are sought after all over the world. Zimbabwe has industrial attachments and entrepreneurial programmes in place.

What strategies has the ministry put in place to deal with brain drain to ensure that the country’s human resource base is used for the development of the country?

The Ministry has developed a Human Capital website to bring back Zimbabwean experts. Ministry liaises with industry through the National Manpower Aisory Council on the industry based programmes. The Government has continuously encouraged and facilitated public private partnerships.

The majority of universities in the country are facing viability problems and are failing to meet the various needs of students in terms of resources. What is the Ministry doing to ensure that institutions of higher learning continue to produce high quality graduates?

Universities are engaged in production projects since 2010.

Parents have repeatedly raised concern over the rising costs of tuition fees which have forced some students to drop out. Can the Ministry shed light on efforts to reintroduce the cadetship scheme?

Government never stopped cadetship but it is subject to availability of funds.

How far has the Ministry gone in implementing the Nziramasanga Commission’s recommendations?

The Ministry has always implemented the Nziramasanga recommendations. There has been expansion of programmes in Polytechnics and Industrial Training Colleges.

The production of ECD teachers is also a result of the recommendations. One of the commission’s recommendations called for the increased access to Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) for all children. We now refer to it as Early Childhood Development (ECD).

In 2004, the Government developed a new policy which required the integration of children of 3-5 years into primary school.

According to this Presidential Commission Report, ” . . . the first few years are crucial in the development of intelligence, personality and social behaviour . . .” of the child.

To fulfil this recommendation, Seke Teachers College was asked to start training ECD teachers with effect from 2004. It started with 144 ECD student teachers.

Other teachers colleges such as Marymount started training ECD teachers soon after. By the end of 2012, 10 of the 11 primary teachers colleges in the country had ECD programmes and were producing ECD teachers. The eleventh college, Madziwa, is now ready to introduce this programme.

A total of 2 635 ECD teachers have been produced.

What is the Government’s position regarding the provision of scholarships to other higher institutions outside the country?

Government is committed to reducing gaps in critical shortage areas at the same time universities have been engaged in various exchange programmes.

University teachers have in the past raised concern over poor remuneration and this has also seen an exodus of qualified personnel leaving Government universities in search of greener pastures elsewhere. What remedies are being put in place by the Ministry to protect its most qualified staff?

The Government has continuously engaged university lecturers and the situation has positively improved.

Accommodation has remained as one of the perennial problems affecting institutions of higher learning like the University of Zimbabwe and Midlands State University. What plans are there in terms of providing adequate accommodation for students?

Government is building resident hostels in some universities such as Bindura, Lupane, National University of Science and Technology.

We are aware of the problems and will definitely construct hostels when funds become available.

Source : The Herald