Plight of school heads vit­ri­olic

The Manica Post - - Education / Entertainment - Mor­ris Mtisi

THE eco­nomic re­al­ity in the coun­try and ZIMSEC de­mands are com­ple­ment­ing each other to make the life of school heads and SDCs mis­er­ably un­ten­able.

If there is a job at the mo­ment that is un­en­vi­able, it is that of a school head, par­tic­u­larly one in charge of a board­ing school. The sit­u­a­tion in schools at the mo­ment is acer­bic, cut­ting, bit­ing, barbed and crit­i­cal. The school heads see and live it ev­ery day. They fear and dread it, but there is noth­ing they can do. They watch, suf­fer qui­etly and en­dure it all in dig­ni­fied and hon­ourable anger.

Let me stop drama­tis­ing the plight of school heads and go down to facts.

First, the eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment is pre­car­i­ous and rick­ety. When the prices of food and items for ev­ery­day use in the school go up in­stantly, as in­deed they go up for ev­ery cit­i­zen, plan­ning and bud­get­ing be­comes er­ratic and fu­tile. When the cost of a kilo­gramme of beef soars overnight from $5 per kg to $15 or $18, any nor­mal head in a board­ing school de­vel­ops stom­ach trou­ble and re­sul­tantly bud­getary di­ar­rhoea.

When fuel dries up and Shim­mer Chin­odya non­cha­lantly rewrites his story about Queues in Writ­ing Still, then Chinua Achebe also dis­pas­sion­ately rewrites his Things Fall Apart and its se­quel No Longer at Ease.

And when all this hap­pens, no one un­der­stands and fears the times like a school head, par­tic­u­larly of a board­ing school.

How does and how can a school head con­tinue to feed 900 or 1000 dif­fi­cult-to-please stu­dents with the same qual­ity and quan­tity of food un­der the same bud­get when the costs have dou­bled, in some cases tripled?

How does he or she tell par­ents whose own salaries have not been in­creased to in­crease the school fees in­stantly and con­sid­er­ing the daily soar­ing of prizes how many times per week, per month, per term must this hap­pen?

School cer­tainly be­comes some sort of hell.

This writer is not an econ­o­mist, thank God, be­cause that way he is saved the pain and men­tal pun­ish­ment of hav­ing to un­der­stand what is hap­pen­ing, how and why? He does not have to un­der­stand any­thing to do with the money mar­ket and forex ex­change rates etc. But one thing that he knows is that the econ­omy is sneez­ing heav­ily and the flu which is most se­vere in schools is catch­ing ev­ery Zim­bab­wean and is not an or­di­nary cold that will go with­out any spe­cial med­i­ca­tion.

The havoc the cur­rent eco­nomic re­al­ity plays can­not best be told by economists, but by school heads in charge of board­ing schools. The best way to de­scribe the tragic eco­nomic re­al­i­ties in the schools and in­deed in the coun­try, can best be un­der­stood not by eco­nomic jar­gon in Eco­nom­ics en­cy­clopae­dias, but in the lan­guage of our own black phi­los­o­phy em­bed­ded in our own ver­nac­u­lar proverbs: Amai vatsva mu­sana, mwana atsva mudumbu (The mother has a burnt back and the child a burnt stom­ach). What this means is sim­ple but fright­en­ing. The mother who is sup­posed to safely carry the baby on her back has a back scoured with burns and as if that were not tragic enough, the baby it­self who needs the safety and com­fort of the mother’s back, also has a stom­ach lined with burns.

As if the eco­nomic teeth were not bit­ing enough and the life of a school head not mis­er­able enough, ZIMSEC comes in at the same time with Mo­saic laws that must be fol­lowed to the let­ter.

The schools must com­ply with the new cur­ricu­lum, nat­u­rally. That is un­der­stand­able.

Zimsec forces schools to buy rel­e­vant sci­ence-kits, chem­i­cals and other lab­o­ra­tory equip­ment. Again that is un­der­stand­able.

But the schools have no spe­cial bud­get or donor agency for this new de­vel­op­ment, but it must be done. With­out ap­pro­pri­ate sci­ence-kits, there are no ex­am­i­na­tions. The schools have no money, but must find it, in heaven or in hell. They must beg, steal or bor­row. And that is none of Zimsec’s busi­ness. What they do and do it well is tell you what to do. How you will do it or not do it is none of their busi­ness.

Zimsec tells schools what to do? Yes they do, ‘‘Build spe­cial cab­i­nets and strong rooms to keep the ex­am­i­na­tion pa­pers safe’’. Very good!

No one wants these to leak and em­bar­rass the na­tion. That too is good. ‘‘This school and that school shall be an ex­am­i­na­tion cen­tre where clus­ter schools shall col­lect their ex­am­i­na­tions pa­pers ev­ery day.’’

‘‘Thy will be done,’’ the school heads must say. If you don’t have a suit­able school car or truck to col­lect the ques­tion pa­pers and to re­turn the an­swer scripts to the ex­am­i­na­tion cen­tre in your clus­ter, that is your baby, not Zimsec’s. If you have no fuel or don’t want to sleep in the diesel or petrol queue, again that is not Zimsec’s problem. Again the school heads must say, ‘‘Amen!’’

In all these night­mares de­mand­ing un­bud­geted money and solutions next to mir­a­cles, no one chips in to help the school head and his or her school. This is when heads spend nights awake. When morn­ing comes there is still no an­swer . . . but the job is still wait­ing to be done.

The schools are plunged into a hell-fire of con­fu­sion and anx­i­ety. Some teach­ers, many of them per school, stop at­tend­ing to their classes. They are up and down the road ev­ery day mak­ing sure ex­am­i­na­tions at their school do not at­tract any un­favourable head­lines from jour­nal­is­tic hawks too ready to blow the whis­tle. They are not paid any al­lowances by Zimsec for help­ing it do its work.

They are away from their own class­rooms and fam­i­lies, sleep­ing in queues to get diesel or petrol for the school. Yet above all this pain and chaos which they nei­ther cause nor un­der­stand, they must not only do what is re­quired but do it qui­etly, dili­gently and with a smile on ev­ery face.

Have you ever been in a sit­u­a­tion you must cry but are forced to smile be­cause that is the only way open and left to you?

This is what school heads to­day know best how to do. They still wear the head­mas­ter’s suit and drive the school Navara or D4D.

The school bus is still there fast as­sum­ing the stature of a white ele­phant. The SDC still ex­ists, though it too now knows that run­ning a school is not a game of power and talk­ing. Things must be done. But in all these schools, lest we for­get, busi­ness is not busi­ness as usual. Things have fallen apart. Things are no longer at ease! It is the hope of this writer that though there are no more plas­tic balls to play in the schools, soon these schools will not run into An­i­mal Farms an­grily pon­der­ing why they are in this state of dis­il­lu­sion­ment and ad­min­is­tra­tive quandary yet they have done ev­ery­thing right and played ev­ery game ac­cord­ing to the rule.

Per­haps the best book to read for school heads, for now, par­tic­u­larly those in charge of board­ing in­sti­tu­tions, is Mu­ja­jati’s The Sun Will Rise Again. For in­deed the sun will rise again to­mor­row de­spite tonight’s ugly and fright­en­ing dark­ness.

In­stead of day­dream­ing and get­ting bit­ter in­stead of bet­ter; in­stead of fin­ger-point­ing and ‘‘pol­i­tick­ing’’ about the night­mare school heads are silently and obe­di­ently suf­fer­ing un­der, does any­body have wise ideas to as­sist them out of this ‘‘web­site’’ of costly con­fu­sion and dilemma, now or in fu­ture? If you can­not help, don’t just be an­gry. Just hold your peace and lis­ten to those who have wise coun­sel to give.

Join me MM, your ra­dio teacher and Head-To-Head talk-show host on Di­a­mond FM Ra­dio very Thurs­day night ex­actly 8pm! Be my guest! Feel free to join in the con­ver­sa­tion! On­line num­bers are 020 (60308) or What­sApp 0719103103 and SMS texts on 0782 228 578! You are free to post your con­cerns, re­marks and ques­tions be­fore the pro­gramme.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Zimbabwe

© PressReader. All rights reserved.