AT least four schools in Hwange District might be forced to close while several others in other districts in Matabeleland North are being run by skeleton staff including village heads, owing to a shortage of staff following the ban on re-engagement of temporary teachers and the shunning of the schools by qualified teachers.
In Matabeleland South, although officials said there was no school which was in danger of closing, they said 80 percent of the primary schools do not have Early Childhood Development teachers and pupils are either taught by non-ECD teachers or are not being taught at all.
Investigations have, however, revealed that in Hwange District, Kandebwe, Msuna, Nengasha and Najepwa primary schools do not have qualified teachers and in some cases parents have pooled resources and employed a temporary teacher to administer and teach all the classes.
At Kandebwe Primary School which is 80 kilometres from Hwange town, it was observed that the school has since the beginning of the term been run by a village head in the area after all qualified teachers left and the Government did not renew the contracts for temporary teachers who were at the school.
Although Matabeleland North provincial education director Mrs Boitatelo Mnguni could not be reached to give an overview of the province which also includes Binga which has many schools facing the same problem, Hwange district education officer Mr Lovemore Nyoni confirmed the situation in the district.
“Yes, we have challenges of some schools lacking qualified teachers, a situation that has been worsened by the freeze on employment of temporary teachers and has seen some schools being run by temporary teachers employed by the SDC. The location of the schools and lack of proper infrastructure are some of the factors that are affecting the district’s ability to retain qualified teachers. It is unfortunate that our district which has a high number of untrained teachers has over the years been relying on locally trained teachers which is no longer happening,” he said.
At Kandebwe, Mr Nyoni said two qualified teachers were deployed to the school which has an enrolment of 120 pupils at the start of this term, but left two days later resulting in parents employing a village head to administer the school. He said the education office asked a teacher from a neighbouring Dambumukulu Primary to assist in running the affairs of the school.
“However, because of the distance and lack of basic amenities the teacher refused citing an infringement of her right,” said Mr Nyoni.
He said although parents were keen to employ qualified temporary teachers, they could not pay them since they were also struggling to pay school fees. Mr Nyoni said this year education officials were forced to transfer the only qualified female teacher at Nengasha Primary School in Dinde, 17 kilometres from Hwange National Park after she tendered in an urgent application arguing that she was pregnant and could no longer cope with the “harsh” environment. Communities there brave wild animals with whom they compete for water at unsafe sources.