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Rural teachers walk 3.5km to access cell-phone network, shops and clinics

Infrastructural development continues to be a huge problem affecting people in Zimbabwe’s rural communities with the latest parliamentary report indicating that a teacher is expected to travel a distance of about 3.5km to access cell-phone network and clinics and shops.

Gokwe Chireya MP Tonderai Moyo on Tuesday presented a report of the Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education on provision of sanitary wear in rural areas, rural schools and progress made on the construction and refurbishment of schools, access to Information Communication Technology equipment and availability of teachers to conduct physical lessons when schools open during second term.

The report details the embarrassing and painful experiences that rural teachers are facing due to unavailability of essential services like clinics and networks.

Due to this, most teachers are said to be dumping rural schools seeking better educational institutions. One case study given by the committee was of Kasika Primary School in Mashonaland Central Province.

“At Kasika Primary School, the teachers have to travel a distance of about 3.5kms to access cell-phone network and other services such as clinics and shops. The road network in some areas also discourages teachers from staying on the job as some buses are only available during the night,” read the report.

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“The Committee was informed that between 2020 and 2021, Kasika Primary School was run by the school head alone who manned all classes from ECD A to grade 7. The school only received six teachers during the year 2022, who are unlikely to stay longer in the area given the poor working conditions.

“It was highlighted that two teachers had already transferred leaving the four teachers available to teach composite classes as follows, ECD A and B, grades 3 and 4, grades 5 and 6 while there is only one teacher for grade 7.

“The DSI bemoaned the recruitment method which favours teachers from other regions to come and teach at the school while the local teachers are being side-lined.

“An example was given of a teacher who only reported for duty for a week and applied for a transfer while qualified teachers in the area remain unemployed.”

The Committee established that most schools in the rural communities were facing shortages of teachers mainly for Science, Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology for both ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels.

It was also cited that teachers’ morale was low due to challenges they are facing, including low government wages.

“The Committee observed that teacher morale was at its lowest as they face a wide range of challenges ranging from low inadequate salaries, lack of clean sources of water, poor and inadequate accommodation, inaccessibility of the area to other critical service centres like hospitals and cellphone networks among others.

“The school head at Chakohwa Primary school who confirmed that he will be retiring in four years’ time bemoaned the poor package for pensioners, which he noted as scary for him to imagine.

“He pointed out that he had been in service for close to 40 years and yet he is scared of facing retirement as he is aware that he will walk away with nothing substantive,” the report stated.