Professor Paul Mavhima
. . . Mavima defends high pupil/teacher ratio
. . . says he will not resign, come what may
. . . ECD at public schools now a joke
There is an outrage against the alleged policy blunders being made by the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Professor Paul Mavima who stands accused of making unpopular decisions that are detrimental to the education sector.
Recently, Mavima nullified the 2017 Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (ZIMSEC) 'O' Level English Paper 2 results and controversially ordered a re-sit, a deeply unpopular decision which was later invalidated by the High Court of Zimbabwe last week.
As if that is not enough, Prof Mavima told TellZim News in an interview this week that it was normal to have a class of 50 to 60 ECD pupils being taught by one teacher.
He was responding to questions on his decision to freeze the recruitment of new Early Childhood Development (ECD) teachers, a move that has created an unmanageable situation in public schools where one teacher has to deal with a class of up to 60 little children.
"It's normal. That is the case everywhere even in Harare. There are resource constraints but when things loosen up, we will start recruiting again," said Mavima.
Asked if – by his use of the word 'normal' – he meant that the situation in primary schools was ideal even by government's own standards, Mavima changed track, saying things should be better.
"At ECD level we should have 25 pupils in each class, at junior primary (grades 3-7) it should be 35 while in secondary school, the proper number is 40," Mavima said.
There are growing calls from parents and other key stakeholders for Mavima to resign but the Professor, who is rumoured to be related to the President, said he will not call it quits, come what may.
Masvingo Provincial Education Director (PED) Zedius Chitiga acknowledged the problem of pupil per teacher ratio but warned schools against using that as an excuse for poor quality teaching.
"We indeed have inadequate teaching capacity at ECD level and our hope is that things will improve. We however do not accept dereliction of duty while using the problems at hand as an excuse. Schools need to be innovative and they must know the right places to go and present their respective problems so that we help each other wherever possible," said Chitiga.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a teacher at one school in Masvingo Urban said almost 400 ECD pupils were sharing a three-classroom block and three teachers.
"The situation cannot be sustained. We are cheating ourselves and robbing the children of their future because they are receiving no education at all. Imagine having to manage all those small children on your own; some of them crying, making noise or paying no attention at all. There is nothing much a teacher can do, we just let them be and wait for knock off time," said the teacher.
Another teacher said ECD learning in public schools will soon mean nothing if government does not reverse its decision to stop recruiting more ECD teachers.
"It's an irrational decision. Children are going to school as a pastime with only the brightest minds standing a chance of learning anything from the overcrowded classrooms. For those who can afford it, it is wise to send their children to private crèches," said the teacher.
One school head in Gutu said the government had to scrap the ECD programme altogether if it was not fully committed to fund its requirements.
"I do not understand why we are being forced to continue with a programme which does not have full government commitment. At my school, ECD children are sitting on the floor and they don't have teachers," said the school head.
He also attacked Mavima for what he said were outrageous policy blunders barely three months after assuming office.
"He must resign and preserve whatever little credibility that's left of him. There is the English paper two re-write debacle, and now the jokes that are happening in ECD," he said.education