Coltart said unlike in other recent years, there were less strikes this year, allowing pupils and students more days in class. “We spent much of this year laying a good foundation for the rehabilitation of the sector,” Coltart said. “The Education Transition Fund (ETF) went a long way in ensuring that primary and secondary schools got enough textbooks for all children.”
The international donor community, led by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), early this month launched the second phase of the ETF, starting a massive nationwide distribution of at least seven million textbooks to the country’s secondary schools.
This exercise brought to more than 22 million the total number of textbooks procured and distributed to primary and secondary schools as a way of assisting government as it struggles to restore normalcy in the sector, once the envy of the region.
Other positives this year include embarking on a curriculum review and Statutory Instruments relating to education which will come into effect next year, Coltart said, adding that a lot was also done towards assisting schools to improve their administrative duties, especially in the area of data capture with computers being distributed to many schools.
“We have also completed a five-year strategic plan and that will be presented to cabinet soon,” he said.
More still needs to be done: Students
Students Solidarity Trust coordinator Simba Nyamanhindi agreed that there were some positives which justified the celebration of this year’s International Education Week a week ago.
“There was a marked improvement in terms of availability of education although accessibility remains an issue especially because of the fees which remain high,” Nyamanhindi said.
“The multi-currency system and the prevailing political environment all helped bring some normalcy in the sector. “The ETF has also gone a long way in alleviating the plight of especially primary school pupils.
“Generally, education is now available but more needs to be done to make it universally accessible.” Nyamanhindi said the re-establishment of the grants scheme for tertiary education is one of the ways which can help improve accessibility.
He added that although halls of residence at the University of Zimbabwe were re-openned, accommodation too remained a problem as these were unaffordable to many and students continued renting in nearby suburbs.
In a statement, the MDC Youth Assembly equated tuition fees to “exorbitant learning fines”. “As the students of Zimbabwe, we are the gross source of the much needed human capital for the attainment of economic growth and sustainable development, or at least equitable development,” part of the statement read.
“Demanding the reinstatement, in full, of the grants, the scrapping of the insane user fees, the accordance of fundamental freedoms and our rights is what our blood is worth.”
Coltart admitted that gaps remained, citing dropout rates as an example. “Sadly, we are a long way away from attaining the millennium development goals, especially regarding primary school education,” he said. “Education remains very inaccessible to an unacceptably high number of children.
“Dropout rates are unacceptably high as parents and guardians cannot afford the fees.”
GOVERNMENT URGED TO GIVE MORE PRIORITY TO EDUCATION
Coltart said government needed to prioritise education and allocate more funds to the sector for it to fully recover. “While I am grateful for what the minister of finance allocated us, the funds are still insufficient,” he said.
“We are spending way more on foreign travel than on education and that is a warped priority. “We were allocated a non-salary amount of US$66 million last year and only US$14, 8 million has been received so far compared to US$50 million spent on foreign travel.”
Coltart said the US$27 million allocated for the rehabilitation of schools in last week’s budget was also very little as he had 8 000 schools, which meant that each school would get US$3 300 to cater for its needs.