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Health talk: Education issues causing stress among parents

Dr Johannes Marisa

The beginning of February 2022 saw the re-opening of schools in Zimbabwe where thousands of learners flocked their respective schools. Many parents or guardians grumbled over how some schools were operating. The costs involved in the sending of learners back to schools were just unbearable from many fronts. Parents could not stomach the high costs of uniforms, tuition and fees demanded by many schools. The level of insanity in the education sector is nauseating to say the least.

Stress-related illnesses are common in bad situations where one fails to cope with prevailing situations. Many medical conditions are aggravated by stress and these include hypertension, gastritis, eating disorders, headaches which can all complicate to give more serious conditions.

A parent who earns less than US 200 dollars is asked to part away with at least US 1500 for a child who is to get into boarding. A big chunk of the money is traced to corruption in order to grease school authorities in order to secure places, especially form one boarding places.

Many schools are clearly extorting parents as they force them to buy uniforms at unprecedently high prices from their respective school.

One school from Mashonaland East is charging US$600 for a set of uniforms, an amount which is more than double the cost of the same in town. Why are the school heads not investigated for such thievery?

Where is the Education ministry to bring sanity on such matters that threaten to cause serious mental illness in parents? My investigations revealed that the practice of selling uniforms is for self-aggrandisement and not to benefit the schools. This should be nipped in the bud.

Teachers declared incapacitation and more than 80 000 of them were suspended by the government for failing to report for duty. This is another headache for parents who will witness their children being sent back home because educators are not conducting lessons at their respective schools. Indeed, mental illness is a common condition that now affects at least 13% of the global population. Some of the conditions are mood disorders, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders to mention, but a few.

Covid-19 has been a menace since December 2019 when it was first discovered in Wuhan Province of China. The level of disruption on the political, economic and social environments is unbearable.

World economy tumbled while social amenities like schools, cinemas, sports, arts almost went into extinction. School children suffered for a long time with very minimal lessons as the coronavirus ravaged the world. The closure of schools saw many children resorting to drug abuse, numerous cases of childhood pregnancies were recorded accompanied by childhood marriages.

There are high chances of sexually transmitted infections including HIV infections all emanating from being away from school for some time. Boredom also creeped in affecting even the young scholars.

Schools opened on February 7 after Covid-19 cases dropped to unprecedented levels. The incidence, prevalence, morbidity, case fatality ratio, positivity ratio and overall mortality from Covid-19 nose-dived in our country.

Hats off to our dedicated medical staff that contributed marginally to the containment of the dreaded virus. It was to be short-lived joy for learners as teachers declared incapacitation. That automatically spelt doom for the already-paralysed education sector. The teachers gave their reasons for failure to report to work.

The reasons are highly understandable, hovering around the issues of remuneration, incentives and general lack of incentives. The cost of living has lately sky-rocketed with the bread basket now around $72 000.

The salaries are surely not in tandem with the high costs of living. There is general lack of motivation among teachers in Zimbabwe with both intrinsic and extrinsic factors lacking. The end result is poor discharge of duties with possibilities of high failure rates of learners. Our education should be restored to the old days when Zimbabwe was one of the most admired countries in Africa.

In April 2014, the then Education minister Lazarus Dokora, banned the payment of incentives to teachers by parents as it sought to restore sanity and equality in the education sector. The issue of incentives had been introduced in 2009 when the salaries of teachers were still meagre.

The banning measure was said to bring relief to parents who felt hard-done by schools after having paid all the required tuition fees. The incentive issue has remained taboo up to today although some schools have come up with so many names in a bid to conceal the issue.

Names like ‘’development fees’’ have been in circulation for many schools. Government argued that the incentives were unfairly managed, with some schools, especially rural ones not getting anything at all.

Some school heads were accused of thievery, abuse of funds, and lack of accountability among other things.

Considering the perilous situation on the ground where there seems to be deadlock between government and striking teachers, incentives can be re-introduced in order to motivate our educators.

Government should allow schools to receive such incentives but there should be a cap on the amount that is to be paid by parents. It is disgusting to hear that there are some boarding schools that are charging as much as US$150 per student as “development fees” per term so that teachers would be paid incentives. This is utter madness that should be stopped and government should chip in in a bid to bring sanity on such nauseating matters.

Giving our hard-working educators incentives of about US$30-40 as one-off payment per term is reasonable while negotiations with government continue. It is time parents, teachers and government collaborate in order to bring relief to our long-suffering teachers. Our kids deserve candid and fastidious education.

Let us all work for the betterment of our country. All workers deserve better working conditions, be they from the private or public sector. National development comes from your effort!

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