Re­think­ing ru­ral schools own­er­ship

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Leader - Syd­ney Kawadza Se­nior Writer

Lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties have thus, with­drawn their tra­di­tional sup­port to th­ese schools and have in most cases found them­selves at log­ger­heads with the new school au­thor­i­ties.

PRI­MARY and Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Pro­fes­sor Paul Mav­ima’s key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors in­clude con­struc­tion of more schools. This is part of Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa’s vi­sion for Zim­babwe to be­come an up­per mid­dle-in­come econ­omy by 2030. Vi­sion 2030 could, how­ever, be af­fected by is­sues per­ceived to be small and ly­ing un­de­tected.

The chal­lenges em­anate from poli­cies dat­ing back to the colo­nial era when the white mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment with­drew fund­ing for mis­sion schools. Th­ese chal­lenges are mostly ev­i­dent in ru­ral schools where chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tional devel­op­ment is de­stroyed and af­fect­ing pass rates.

Be­fore in­de­pen­dence, ru­ral schools were run by churches through mis­sion­ary cen­tres and th­ese re­ceived small grants.

The colo­nial gov­ern­ment, how­ever, with­drew sup­port from mis­sion schools pro­mot­ing their han­dover to ru­ral dis­trict coun­cils.

How­ever, ru­ral coun­cils in their na­ture lack suf­fi­cient rev­enue bases to sup­port and pro­mote the growth of th­ese ed­u­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties.

Gov­ern­ment’s Ed­u­ca­tion for All pol­icy af­ter in­de­pen­dence in­creased grants for devel­op­ment while com­mu­ni­ties pro­vided vol­un­tar­ily labour and other ma­te­ri­als es­pe­cially build­ing ma­te­ri­als such as bricks.

In the 1990s, ed­u­ca­tional func­tions were de­cen­tralised with school au­thor­i­ties and com­mu­ni­ties — through School Devel­op­ment Com­mit­tees and School Devel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tions — tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for schools devel­op­ment.

How­ever, coun­cils, reel­ing from the eco­nomic up­heavals at the turn of the new mil­len­nium, strug­gled to sup­port schools un­der their ju­ris­dic­tion. Coun­cil then asked in­ter­ested church or­gan­i­sa­tions to take over re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for run­ning the schools from the RDCs.

The chal­lenges man­i­fested in com­mu­ni­ties where re­li­gion and cul­tural prac­tices clashed.

Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey, ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tions and dia­logues held in the Mid­lands prov­ince from 2016, a num­ber of chal­lenges have emerged which af­fect the devel­op­ment of the schools.

The sur­vey, sup­ported by a non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion — Cen­tre for Con­flict Man­age­ment and Trans­for­ma­tion — in­volved lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties af­fected by coun­cil school han­dovers, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties at dis­trict and pro­vin­cial lev­els, church rep­re­sen­ta­tives, teach­ers as­so­ci­a­tions, Gov­ern­ment, tra­di­tional lead­ers and teach­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tions.

It emerged that the tran­si­tion led to dis­agree­ments be­tween new au­thor­i­ties and em­ploy­ees, par­ents, com­mu­ni­ties and coun­cils.

The cur­rent leg­isla­tive and pol­icy frame­work for such han­dovers and re-regis­tra­tion of the coun­cil schools is guided by the Ed­u­ca­tion Act in­clud­ing var­i­ous cir­cu­lars and coun­cil by-laws.

It also emerged that th­ese did not pro­vide spe­cific guide­lines to fa­cil­i­tate mu­tual agree­ments among stake­hold­ers af­fected by the han­dovers.

Zim­babwe’s cur­rent leg­isla­tive pro­vi­sions do not pro­tect the rights and in­ter­ests of pupils, par­ents, school em­ploy­ees and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. There are no mech­a­nisms to mon­i­tor the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion pro­vided by the new school cur­ricu­lum.

This has also led to var­i­ous con­flicts par­tic­u­larly in re­spect of the new meth­ods of re­li­gious in­struc­tions — such as dress code, con­duct and cul­tural prac­tices — im­posed usu­ally by the au­thor­i­ties. The new school au­thor­i­ties also clashed with pupils on rights to re­li­gion with strict re­li­gious doc­trines in­tro­duced.

Com­mu­ni­ties feel robbed of own­er­ship of the schools when they pro­vided re­sources and labour dur­ing con­struc­tion in line with the Gov­ern­ment’s Ed­u­ca­tion for All Pol­icy.

Own­er­ship is also de­rived from the names of such schools, which hon­oured lo­cal tra­di­tional chiefs, tribes or lo­cal geo­graph­i­cal phe­nom­e­non.

Lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties have thus, with­drawn their tra­di­tional sup­port to th­ese schools and have in most cases found them­selves at log­ger­heads with the new school au­thor­i­ties.

This has also re­sulted in ten­sions be­tween the SDAs, which are pro­vided for in the Ed­u­ca­tion Act and the school au­thor­i­ties.

The fees struc­ture in­tro­duced by the churches were also higher than those of the RDCs and this has re­sulted in fail­ure by many par­ents or guardians to pay the school fees.

The con­sul­ta­tions and di­a­logue led to the craft­ing and guide­lines for the han­dover of ru­ral day schools from coun­cils to churches and other au­thor­i­ties. It is be­lieved af­ter the suc­cess of th­ese con­sul­ta­tions and di­a­logue, th­ese can be adopted as best prac­tice and shared with pol­icy mak­ers across Zim­babwe.

Rec­om­men­da­tions in­clude the need for lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to give suf­fi­cient no­tice to the af­fected stake­hold­ers and com­mu­ni­ties writ­ten no­ti­fi­ca­tions. There should be in­ves­ti­ga­tions, as­sess­ments and in­spec­tions to es­tab­lish own­er­ship of all in­fra­struc­ture, as­sets and equip­ment at the school.

El­e­ments of han­dovers should in­clude school main­te­nance and devel­op­ment, its poli­cies and gov­er­nance and the mon­i­tor­ing of com­pli­ance and qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion.

Th­ese is­sues are af­fect­ing a num­ber of schools across Zim­babwe, but as and when th­ese rec­om­men­da­tions are pub­lished, Min­is­ter Mav­ima should also look at th­ese chal­lenges.

There are in­deed lit­tle prob­lems that can af­fect a whole project that could be of ben­e­fit to the growth of Zim­babwe and its ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. ◆ Feed­back: syd­ney.kawadza@zim­pa­pers.co.zw

Prof Mav­ima

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