By Irvin Takavada

The chaos that has characterized the country’s education sector recently that include the rise in Covid-19 cases in schools and the shoddy examinations ,has really shown that the minister responsible is inept and any serious government should boot out such a character.

The writing is clearly on the wall that the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Cain Mathema is not fit for the job. When Covid-19  befall us and government reacted by closing schools early the assumption was that the  schools were going to be opened when every precaution had been taken into consideration to ensure schools did not become sources of mass infections but alas as usual Minister Mathema and his ministry bungled.Look where we are now the phased opening of schools have not been helpful at all as the government is ill-equipped with some schools having no testing kits which make the Covid-19 figures being thrown around by the ministry doubtfull.

Schools now Sources of Mass Covi-19 Infections

Stakeholders like teachers’ organisations have blasted government for its stubbornness in continuing with lessons when it is now apparent that Minister Mathema’s bungling is putting teachers and learners at risk of contracting the ravaging Coronavirus. Acording to Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe President Dr Takavafira Zhou,the government should just close the schools until they are now better equipped to tame the Covid-19 pandemic.

”It is dangerous for government  to claim that the cases are minimal when it has no capacity to test all teachers, students and ancillary staff in schools.

“Our preparedness to efficiently, effectively and transparently use resources to combat covid 19 in schools is uppermost now. Without this, the best would be to urgently close all schools before the majority of teachers and pupils become victims,” urged Dr Takavafira Zhou.

PTUZ reports that more than 184 cases of covid 19 were recorded  at John Tallach in Mat North with students being  quarantined at the school which has subsequently closed for non-exam student. There  were also more than 88 cases at Chinhoyi High in Mashonaland  West and in Mutoko at All Souls Mission 20 cases were recorded. In Midlands at Anderson Adventist High there are 19 reported cases of Covid-19.But minister Cain Mathema is arrogantly saying the government is under control despite the spiraling infections.

The Crippling Strike and An Irrational Minister

Mathema proved his unworthiness in the critical education sector when he failed to be rationale while dealing with the teachers strike that ensued when schools were reopened. Instead of  reasoning with the teachers he resorted to issuing threats and what we got in the result was a crippling strike which jeopardized exam learners of their preparations for exams.

While the minister was lying to the nation that most teachers were reporting to duty ,a survey by Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe then was on the contrary .

“The recent claim by the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Ambassador Cain Mathema that there are enough teachers in schools to take examinations classes, is the biggest joke of the century.

“From the research that we carried out yesterday by Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, ARTUZ only 2% of the total teachers in the country reported for duty. The number is not enough to teach all examinations classes and invigilate the examinations. Technically Ordinary level students carry an average of ten different subjects and Advanced level students an average of three different subjects,”cited ARTUZ.

Teachers are demanding better remuneration including Covid-19 allowances since they are at risk of contracting the virus .It also worth to note most schools have increased fees which gives the teacher every reason to clamour for higher salaries to commensurate  with the rise in cost of living.

What a Mess of Exams

The chaos that have marred the  Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council(ZIMSEC) exams  have validated the ineptitude of the ministry of primary and secondary education. It had not adequately prepared for the examinations but what boggles the mind is that despite the clarion call from stakeholders that exams be postponed ,Mathema being arrogant as he is ,decided to carry on with the examinations. Reports in local media revealed a situation where  ‘students and invigilators around the country discovered that the Geography question paper, which included questions on map reading, was incomplete and the map missing, leading to panicky schools making last minute enquiries to neighboring examination centers to find out if they had the correct paper’.

We have also heard of villagers invigilating students and this has serious implications on the country’s education integrity but all this is happening under a minister with a track record of poor stewardship in other portfolios he has held so far .For example when he was minister of home affairs ,he would on numerous occasions court the ire of opposition parties and civic society organisations with his reckless statement of crushing dissent.It is during his reign that the Registrar General’s offices’ inefficiency worsened.

If Mathema was not a serious bootlicker of the incumbent whom he supported during the tumultuous fall between G40 and Lacoste he should have been shown the exit for his poor performance but out government does not award meritocracy but loyalty putting the future of thousands of our student at stake.