Achieve universal primary education

Where we are?

 Zimbabwe is likely to achieve MDG Goal 2 if current efforts are continued. Photo - UNDP Zimbabwe
  • Enrolments in primary schools increased from 820,266 in 1979 to 2,445,516 in 2006, a growth of 198 percent.
  • The primary school NER has remained positive or higher and equal to Net attendance Ratio (NAR). It had reached 96 percent in 2002 to a peak of 99 percent in 2004 and declining slightly in 2006 at 97 percent.
  • The 2009 Zimbabwe Multiple Indicator monitoring Survey (MIMS), Preliminary report, indicates a NER of 91 percent –meaning 9 percent of children of primary school-going age were not enrolled. Urban areas had a higher NER (94 percent) and rural area (90 percent).
  • Reasons for non-attendance in 2009 were attributed to financial constraints (50 percent), early marriage or pregnancy (16 percent) and satisfied with levels attained (12 percent), among other reasons.

Status and Trends

Zimbabwe has consistently maintained relatively high levels of primary school enrolments. The net enrolment ratio (NER) in­creased from 81.9% in 1994, peaking at 98.5% in 2002. Since 2003, however, there has been a gradual decrease, with the 2009 record­ing an NER of 91%. In urban areas the NER is 94% compared to 90% in rural areas.

Although enrolments have remained fairly high, completion rates severely deteriorated between 1996 and 2006, falling from 82.6% to 68.2%. In 2009, the dropout rate was around 30% and slightly higher for boys than it was for girls.

Between 2003 and 2009, results from the examinations at the end of Grade 7 indicate a marked deterioration in the percentage of pupils attaining a pass level of 6 or better in the four subjects English, Shona or Ndebele, Math and the General Paper. Only 20% of children managed to pass these four subjects in 2009, com­pared to 46% in 2003. This grave situation reflects the number of problems primary schools faced during this period, particularly in 2008, when many school were closed. A lack of learning materials, lack of appointments of school heads, and low teacher motivation also played a part.

Pupil-to-textbook ratios deteriorated between 2003 and 2009. In 2003, the ratio at primary schools was 8:1 nationally, with 6:1 in urban areas and 10:1 in rural areas. In 2009, studies showed that 20% of urban primary schools had a pupil-textbook ratio of 9:1 or above, while 11% had no textbooks at all. In rural primary schools, 37% had a pupil-textbook ratio of 9:1, while 8% had no textbooks at all. However, 2010 has seen considerable progress towards im­proving this situation. Through the Education Transitional Fund, which was established by international partners together with the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts, and Culture (MoESAC), a total of 13 million primary school textbooks are being obtained, enough to provide about five textbooks per child.

Teacher Morale, Commitment and Qualifications
Overall, teacher-to-pupil ratios remained stable at between 1:38 and 1:39 over the period 2000–2010. However, these ratios vary according to the type and location of schools, ranging from 1:36 in privileged private schools to 1:52 in some poor and/or remote districts.

Low teacher morale poses a serious challenge to the education system. Although most children continue to go to school, they of­ten receive irregular education. Poor salaries are the main contrib­uting factor to the low morale, and frequent teachers’ strikes and so-called ‘go slow’ strategies have led to a serious deterioration of the quality of education.

The supervision and quality of schools
The supervision of schools has shown marked deterioration, mainly due to shortages of staff, transport, and funds. One indi­cator of the lack of supervision was the large number of Acting School Heads in schools in 2009, although 2010 has seen major effort being made to redress this problem.

School infrastructure has also deteriorated due to lack of mainte­nance. A recent study shows that only a third of existing primary school classrooms are in good condition.

Public Investment in Education
Guidelines from UNESCO suggest that 20% of the state budget and 6% of GDP should be allocated to education. In 2010, the state allocated 12.3% of its budget to MoESAC (donor funds ex­cluded). The present state budget for education mainly funds salaries; there is little investment into areas which contribute to the qualitative aspects of education.

Challenges to Achieving Goal 2

The economic situation for the average Zimbabwean family has worsened during the past decade. This has had a direct nega­tive impact on their ability to send their children to school and pay for school fees and uniforms. Fewer children in rural areas at­tend school than do children in urban areas. The primary school dropout rate is also much higher in rural areas, which account for 78.9% of the total number of dropouts.

HIV and AIDS have also had an enormous impact in this area. In Zimbabwe it is estimated that HIV and AIDS are responsible for close to 70% of the current number of orphans. Despite many positive results from the National Action Plan for OVCs, launched in 2005 to care for the orphan population in Zimbabwe, many of these children are still unable to go to and stay in school because of their inability to afford the tuition fees, the uniform, and other associated costs.

Requirements for Achieving Goal 2

  • Reintroducing free primary education
  • Improving the quality and relevance of primary education
  • Providing school lunches to mitigate problems caused by chronic malnutrition
  • Improving the conditions for teachers through increased salaries as well as training and other conditions for service
  • Ensuring a predictable and adequate state budget allocation

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