THE Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme officially starts on Tuesday when schools open.
The Standard Editorial
Unlike in the past when children aged six years would enrol for grade 1, this term four-year olds will go to school.
They will embark on two years of early primary education before they can enrol for grade 1. The programme though noble, will be seriously handicapped by poor planning and lack of resources.
Many of Zimbabwe’s schools, especially those in rural areas, have inadequate classroom facilities for their grade 1 to 7 pupils. Now they will be required to admit the infants without a clue on where they will accommodate them.
Some children in rural areas and newly resettled communities still learn under trees exposed to the elements of weather. This is what awaits the ECD pupils in these places.
Lazarus Dokora, the minister of Primary and Secondary Education defended the programme last week saying it had not been hurried, but there is little on the ground to suggest his ministry planned for the arrival of infants at over-stretched schools.
Clearly, adding another two infant grades to ill-equipped schools, will certainly create a crisis.
ECD modules require teachers who are specially trained in handling infants, yet little training, if any has been carried out by the ministry.
There is no doubt school-leavers with no skills to handle infants will be thrust into teaching roles.
These temporary teachers, who may not know how to handle the infants, will not help the cause of early childhood development. The children also need special low level desks and chairs, and recreational equipment which are not available in the majority of the schools in rural areas.
What this chaotic scenario shows is that the Zanu PF government simply ordered the schools to offer ECD learning without first thinking about the infrastructure that is required.
This mess can only be corrected if ECD curriculum is standardised, classrooms are constructed and people with the right skills are employed in our schools to teach the infants.
For this to happen, government should channel resources to the Ministry of Education as a matter of urgency.