State of Education in Zimbabwe: A Comprehensive Review

From Independence to Crisis: A Historical Overview

Zimbabwe’s education sector has seen significant changes since independence in 1980. This is when the government aimed to provide equal and free education for all. Rapid expansion of education resources allowed the system to nearly double the number of students served within a year. Despite the challenges, by the end of the 1980s, the education system claimed to achieve universal primary education. However, the 1990s brought about economic mismanagement and hyperinflation. This led to a decline in public funding for the education sector 8.

Economic Downturn and Its Impact on Education in Zimbabwe

The economic downturn that began in 2000 saw a 40% decrease in the GDP. The results of this reduced social expenditures on health and education. By 2008, most schools and hospitals were in shutters due to the economic crisis. There was an increase in HIV and AIDS cases and an outbreak of cholera. This period led to the closure of 94% of rural schools, significantly affecting attendance rates 8. This led to a huge hit to Zimbabwe’s education sector.

Recovery and Reform in Zim education: Post-2009

The formation of the Government of National Unity in 2009 marked a turning point for Zimbabwe’s education sector. The government implemented dollarisation to reduce hyperinflation and reinstated social expenditures, including those on education. Attendance rates began to rise again and as of 2014, 3.1 million students were enrolled in primary and secondary education, with a literacy rate of 88% 8.

Furthermore, in the recent past years, the government of Zimbabwe introduced CALA. This is the Continuous Assessment Learning Activities. It is a student assessment system. However, this assessment is a contentious topic between the government, teachers, parents as well as students. This contention sparks debates about its effectiveness and impact on the education system. Its design aims for it to be a holistic and authentic assessment method. It also tests not just academic knowledge but also cognitive, psycho-motor and affective domains 4. This is a way society is working to improve Zimbabwe’s education sector.

Current Challenges and Opportunities

Despite the progress made, Zimbabwe’s education sector remains underfunded and faces several challenges. Quality issues persist due to teacher shortages, infrastructural pressures and the ongoing economic crisis. Only a third of schools are considered to be in good condition and many students lack access to adequate learning materials. Additionally, tuition fees and other associated costs pose barriers to education, particularly for families with limited means 8.

Also, with these challenges in mind and in order to cope, schools and parents are devising ways to improve the student teacher relationship. All this is being done in the bid to improve Zimbabwe’s education sector. Students go for extra lessons with their schoolteachers. It is unfortunate and bizarre that the necessary evil of extra lessons and paying teachers on the side in schools has become the norm.

Moreso, there are reports from parents and students that some teachers may charge a fee to teach on top of the school fees parents pay. This is a well-known fact in informal channels of communication. However, no one really wants to openly talk about it as it might be illegal. Parents and teachers have an understanding on how they both come to accept this, even though parents may pay begrudgingly.

Looking Ahead: The Road to Sustainable Development

Zimbabwe is working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of providing universal and free education to all students by 2030. To reach this goal, the government must address the current challenges, including ensuring adequate funding, improving infrastructure and increasing the availability of trained teachers. International aid and initiatives like the Educational Transition Fund (ETF) have helped alleviate some of these issues, but further investment and policy reforms will be crucial 8.

Conclusion: The Path to Improvement

Zimbabwe’s education sector has faced numerous obstacles since independence, but efforts to recover and reform have begun to show positive signs. With continued commitment to investing in education and addressing the underlying economic challenges, Zimbabwe’s education sector has the potential to thrive and contribute significantly to the nation’s development.

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