Parliament is concerned by reports that in some rural schools across the country, teachers only teach for two days per week.
This came out during a heated debate on Wednesday during a question and answer session with Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Evelyn Ndlovu concerning the continuous disadvantage of rural children.
Rushinga Member of Parliament, Tendai Nyabani asked the education minister what measures had been put in place to make sure children in rural areas that lack connectivity, are also able to access learning opportunities.
Recently the government banned extra lessons, accusing teachers of putting more efforts after class hours as they are paid between US$5 and US$10 per subject every month.
Leader of government business in parliament Ziyambi Ziyambi told legislators that this policy position was taken after noting that school terms were sufficient to cover material required for examinations.
He noted that “teachers were now concentrating on holiday lessons yet the school calendar must be sufficient to ensure leaners are able to write exams”.
Students in rural areas were disadvantaged when it came to accessing learning materials and resources compared to those in urban areas.
There are teachers who are willing to go an extra mile in assisting rural children, but with the Government policy it is impossible.
Nyabani then made a supplementary question to ask why the education ministry does not allow those teachers who are willing to assist students conduct extra lessons than banning them completely.
In response, Ziyambi said such teachers who conduct extra lessons for free, and are being questioned, should inform their parent ministry.
However, Makoni Central legislator, David Tekeshe, argued that the school calendar could not meet the students needs, as “in rural areas, children only learn for two days.”
Yet students in urban setups have access to internet and go to school from Monday to Friday, Tekeshe noted.
The education minister told Parliament that since joining the ministry in October, she observed there were teachers who were teaching for less days due to Covid-19.
Tekeshe inquired how that was going to help school going children.
“I concur with the minister that five days should suffice but the point is how are you going to compensate the lost periods, since they only learn for two days?” asked Tekeshe.
Ndlovu responded that the education ministry together with the ICT sector, were moving with speed to make sure rural schools are equipped, connected and electrified.
She added the ministry hoped UNICEF would support this cause.
“Just yesterday (Tuesday) I had a meeting with UNICEF discussing the issue of computers in schools and that we want to make sure where there is no electricity, we install solar, where there are no computers, we have radios and where there are no radios we use flash disks with recorded lessons. These are the efforts the government is doing,” said Minister Ndlovu.