Thursday, 11 November 2021

STEM TEACHERS DESERT BYO SCHOOLS

BULAWAYO schools have been hit by a mass exodus of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers with 145 having left since the beginning of the year.

The skills flight by STEM teachers has also resulted in a sharp decline in the number of local learners enrolling at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust).

This emerged during a meeting between the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Dr Evelyn Ndlovu and key stakeholders in Bulawayo.

Minister Ndlovu said Government is working on addressing the plight of teachers including a retention package to arrest the skills flight.

This week, the Minister for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Professor Paul Mavima said Government was aware that the increases in the prices of goods and services had eroded the salaries of its workers, hence the need for an upward review.

Government has also assured its workers of the 13th cheque.

Presenting her report on schools in Bulawayo during the meeting with Minister Ndlovu, provincial education director Mrs Olicah Kaira said the metropolitan province lost 145 STEM teachers with Advanced Level classes being the worst hit.

“Our major challenge is the continued vacant teacher posts especially on STEM. We have inadequate teaching personnel in schools and the hardest hit being the A-Level classes. Lately, we have experienced quite a number of teachers resigning and since the beginning of the year,” she said.

“We desperately need 62 A-Level teachers in biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, accounting and economic and computer science, technical graphics, textile technology and design, and business studies. This has a negative bearing on the learner performance outcomes and has also contributed to the failure by Bulawayo to churn out students to enroll at Nust yet it is in our province.”

Mrs Kaira said Bulawayo Province has 201 registered schools, both primary and secondary, with an enrolment of about 201 977 pupils.

“We recommend to you minister that in recruiting teachers, metropolitan provinces should also be considered for teacher deployment from head office especially on critical learning areas such as STEM. We have noted that our head office recruits teachers for only eight provinces with Bulawayo and Harare being exceptions,” she said.

“We want to be considered because we are in a desperate situation for STEM teachers.

“We are also having a challenge of skills flight and STEM teachers are very mobile such that even if we get them through inter-provincial transfers, they are easily enticed by other line ministries for lecturing post.

“This is largely because one of our sister provinces did not give us teachers for consideration through inter-provincial transfers,” she said.

Minister Ndlovu said Government is working on addressing the plight of teachers including a retention package to arrest the skills flight.

“We are working with the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development to make sure that we address the shortage of STEM teachers. We have to concentrate on the recruitment of those that are going for teacher training with STEM so that we improve on the output in our schools in terms of children being churned out with science subjects,” she said.

“There are so many unemployed teachers phoning my office and want to be recruited and some of them graduated three years ago, but are still not in the education system. We will do a database analysis to make sure that we recruit more teachers.”

In September, Government recruited nearly 4 000 teachers who were deployed to eight provinces, which excluded Bulawayo and Harare metropolitan provinces.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education requires at least 40 000 more teachers to address the critical manpower deficit in the education sector with science subjects and ECD classes being the worst affected in terms of staff complement.

The number of teachers that are required has been revised upwards as a result of the need for social distancing in schools, hence lower numbers in class and more teachers to take care of all pupils following the outbreak of Covid-19. There are over 4, 6 million learners in Zimbabwe and nearly 140 000 teachers.

Of the recruited 3 816 teachers, 835 of them replaced teachers who did not report for work during the previous recruitment exercise last year.

Minister Ndlovu said she is working with her Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development counterpart Professor Amon Murwira to ensure that the new curriculum adheres to Education 5.0 as well as match standards.

She said as part of implementing Vision 2030 anchored on the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1), Government has started the construction of 3 000 schools around the country as it lives to President Mnangagwa’s promise of modernising the education sector.

Under NDS1 Government will be paying particular attention to broadening access and participation to education by marginalised populations in both rural and urban areas, with the private sector expected to play a key role as envisaged by the strategic economic blueprint.

Minister Ndlovu said ICT is critical as enabling learning tools in schools to ensure continuous learning for students under Covid-19.

“ICT is critical in our learning school system and without it we cannot succeed. Of course, we can bring in radio and television but some areas have no access to the radio or television signal. We are therefore working with relevant Government agencies to make sure children access those critical services,” she said.

In the wake of Covid-19, the country adopted several measures such as broadcasting lessons to ensure that there is continuity in learning and also partnered with UNICEF in embracing digital-assisted learning.

Through an active collaboration and regular engagement, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Microsoft and UNICEF built the Learning Passport Zimbabwe, which was launched in March to reach 300 000 learners by end of 2021. Chronicle

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