By Jeffrey Moyo
HARARE, Zimbabwe- (AA) – The collapsing education system and poor wages for teachers have led to a mushrooming of makeshift private schools in the southern African country of Zimbabwe.
Even as the 150,000 teachers teach 4.2 million students enrolled in the government schools, they are paid an average of 28,800 Zimbabwean dollars ($72) every month.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Muraradzi Homba, 46, a government teacher, who has set up a backyard school to earn additional money in the capital Harare, said at first, he had started teaching his own children at home who had dismally performed in the exams. But soon he got offers from parents to teach their children also.
Currently, now he has 200 students enrolled in his backyard school, who study in shifts meaning a big business for him, although he continues to mark his presence at the government school. Although these backyard private schools are running illegally, with the collapsing education system, even the government officials prefer to send their wards to enroll in them.
He has recruited now some teachers to help him, turning his backyard into a thriving private school.
“Nothing is pleasing about the education given to pupils nowadays in government schools and I had to enroll my child at a private school for him to earn better results at the end because teachers there at least give the pupils some bit of attention commensurate with the fees there,” Regis Murango, 48, a government official, told Anadolu Agency.
Justifying the mushrooming of backyard schools, the Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe said the country has a shortfall of 2,000 schools.
“Entrepreneurial school teachers are helping the system by forming their own schools in their backyards. Although they don’t have adequate resources yet they are better than our government schools,” said Obert Masaraure, the president of the union.
Ratidzo Munyai, 41, a government school teacher and mother of 16-yeard-old Tendai Maungwe, said she had to enroll her child in a private school run by a colleague after he failed the secondary school examinations.
- Strikes of teachers
For over the past many years, due to strikes by the teachers demanding high wages, the education of school-going children has been badly affected in the country.
While backyard private schools like the one run by Homba are doing a roaring business in the country, the government has come down heavily on the private schools. According to the Zimbabwean government, they have closed 150 unregistered private schools in Harare alone in May.
The country’s Ministry of Education claimed that over 22,000 students who learned in the shut private schools were affected.
Tafadzwa Muguti, Zimbabwe’s secretary for provincial affairs and devolution in the president’s office, threatened to unleash police on private schools defying the country’s laws.
“Regrettably, we continue to have some individuals who seek to undermine laws of the land, in particular the Education Act,” Muguti said in a statement.
“To this effect, all schools operating illegally, that failed to comply since January 17, 2022, shall now be shut down whilst the heads and directors including board members of these schools shall be arrested for contravening the Education Act,” he said.
Zimbabwe’s Education Act requires all schools whether private or public to be registered by the government’s Ministry of Education.
While the secretary of education has said that his department will facilitate provisional registration of private schools, if they meet government criteria, Homba said the process is cumbersome and time-consuming.
“The government route required for one to register a private school is so demanding and takes a lot of time and one might not even be successful following that route because there are also lots of bureaucratic bottlenecks,” said Homba.