Zim minister on path to revolutionise education

There have been lots of distortions and innuendos regarding real motives behind the introduction of updated curriculum the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. Southern Times Senior Writer Lovemore Ranga Mataire (L.R.M) recently caught up with the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Dr Lazarus Dokora (L.D) to get a clearer picture of why the reforms are necessary and dispel any misconceptions. 

L.R.M: A lot has been said about the curriculum reforms being implemented in schools. Can you take us through the journey that has culminated in the ministry translating these reforms into practical implementation in the education system?

L.D: The curriculum review process adopted a highly consultative process after Cabinet approval.

The process was led by the ministry which appointed a group of experts consisting of the Team Leaders’ group. The Team Leaders were assisted by an Inter-Ministerial Technical Working Group. All interested stakeholders were given an opportunity to air their views on the nature of education that they wanted to see implemented in the school system.

To ensure the widest coverage possible, consultations took place at all the 5 863 primary schools, 2 724 secondary schools, at town halls, at 72 district centres, 10 provincial centres and  at a national centre that was set up in Harare.

Collected data were compiled and transmitted to head office for study and analysis by Team Leaders. Further consultations were held with targeted interest groups such as universities, colleges, commerce and industry, local authorities, the churches and professional associations.

Additionally, information was also gathered through written submissions, newspaper articles, radio talk shows, radio phone-in sessions, and SMS. Archival service data has been availed at our HQ.

L.R.M: Given the fact that these reforms are not entirely new and have for a long time been in the public domain, what in your view do you attribute sentiments of different appreciation of the CIET coming from some teachers and parents?

L.D: I think we need to put things in the right perspective. There is no way in which teachers can resist a product in which they were part of.

The majority of our teachers in Phase 2 have a clear understanding of the updated curriculum and the direction of the ministry. All the teachers who are superintending the implementing classes have all started.  Only a few sections of our stakeholders seem to be misinformed as they have fallen victim to mischievous social media purveyors. Understandably, there was an expectation that all classes were entering Phase 2 in 2017. Quite clearly, this was not the case. Any such misconceptions have since been clarified, including through a very successful workshop for honourable Members of Parliament, church elders both in Harare and outside Harare.

L.R.M: An argument often peddled by some pseudo-analysts is that though brilliant, the reforms needed to be implemented in phases or there must have been a pilot project first instead of wholesale implementation across the board. How do respond to such sentiments?

L.D: Pilot projects were done in all the 10 provinces with a hundred schools involved. Remember, we are in Phase 2 according to our implementation matrix. So it is already phased.  We did not fast track the updated curriculum. The whole of Phase 1 of curriculum implementation was devoted to preparation and syllabus development, induction of teachers and supervisors (2016).

The Ministry, as indicated, has adopted a phase-in approach. For 2017, the following grades/levels will be on the new platform: ECD A, Grade 1 and 3, Forms 1, 3 and 5. In the primary school, there are nine grades altogether. Only three grades are implementing Phase 2 in 2017. Of the six forms in secondary school, only three are implementing under Phase 2. Let me say this about the pseudo analysts: they represent themselves very well.

L.R.M: There are some who believe that the ministry should have prioritised infrastructure development instead of implementing curriculum reforms. What is the ministry doing in balancing the need for infrastructure and the demands of the new curriculum?

L.D: I don’t think that could be the correct approach. When are we going to have perfect infrastructure in order for us to start implementing the curriculum? Remember, that is the same fate that befell the Presidential Commission some  18 years ago. We have stated in the framework and before Cabinet that there are five pillars that support the updated curriculum. These pillars are:-

(1) The legal and regulatory framework

(2) Teacher capacity development

(3) Teacher professional standards

(4) Infrastructure development and

(5) The Centre for Educational Research, Innovation and Development (CERID).

As you can see, infrastructure is a task area under which the reforms will accelerate appropriate infrastructure delivery.

The ministry has already embarked on infrastructure development through by-lateral OFID loan funds. In the near future, we will roll out the joint venture partnerships to deliver modern infrastructure for a 100 pilot-schools. At the delivery of the 100 schools, I must go back to Cabinet to report progress and seek further guidance.

L.R.M: Anxiety has been raised on the issue of reading material (books) as a priority for the fruition of the reforms. What is the ministry doing in terms of mobilising resources to capacitate schools to meet the demands of the new curriculum is as far as books are concerned?

L.D: A number of local companies have come on board to assist in the provisioning of teaching and learning materials. As we speak, we have a lot of material that is available at Curriculum Development and Technical Services Department as well as on the market.

Our expectations are that parents will support through levy payments. These levies are applied towards essential tools, books and capacitating schools to fulfil their teaching and, learning obligation under Phase 2. Schools have seen the benefit of festivals series called Schools Annual Science Sport Arts Festivals (SASSAF).

Further, the ministry continues to engage partners who wish to contribute to the full realisation of the potential of the Zimbabwe education system. You must remember that under the guidance of His Excellency, the President, Cde R. G Mugabe, this country does not compare with any other country in Africa. We compare favourably with OECD countries bench marks. But in spite of this, we ourselves are persuaded by the President’s vision to keep education accessible, accountable and qualitatively competitive.

L.R.M:  Please take us through the rationale behind the introduction of electronic Ministry Application Platform (eMap) enrolment and how did it fared during its inception last year?

L.D: The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education introduced the eMap on 12 December 2016 to select learners for 2017 Form One.

The eMap platform means that there is an admission committee at each and every boarding school to admit learners into boarding through the online platform created by the ministry.

This came after the realisation that there were 329 549 learners who completed Grade 7 in 2016 while the total number of boarding places were only 24 000.The choice of the platform was trialled in early 2015 and 2016. Zimsec introduced the e-registration in 2014 and by 2015 every Grade 7 was being processed online. It is a huge advance for our education sector. I wish to commend all heads for boarding schools and congratulate all schools for a sterling job and all the responsible authorities who took part in the consultations leading to online services.

By the closing date of the application, 80 739 learners had successfully applied through the online platform.

The outcome was instructive: we had more girls than boys who went into boarding via eMap.

On the other hand, we had more boys than girls who went into boarding via the traditional approach.

Finally, 305 549 Grade 7 learners transitioned into Form 1 in day schools.

It must be noted that only learners wishing to study at a boarding school were to apply through the eMAP.

L.R.M: Lastly, what is your vision of the education sector and its products in the next 10 years in comparison with the region and the world?

L.D: We should be able to produce well-rounded learners with relevant skills who can contribute meaningfully to the development of the country, life and their families.

June 2017
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