Country Liaison Report from Zimbabwe

Patrick Makokoro, ACEI County Liaison, Zimbabwe, shares the following:

Education and Early Childhood Development (ECD) in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe considers access to high-quality and relevant education for all children both as a basic right and the foundation that underpins the cultural, social, economic, and democratic growth of our nation.  The structure of education is now 2-7-4-2: two years of early childhood development (ECD), 7 years of basic primary education, 4 years of secondary education, and 2 years of senior secondary schooling. Although the literacy rate of Zimbabwe is 92%, there is need for new schools to be built and equipped—particularly in the new resettlement areas. The education sector still faces the challenge of a curriculum that does not match the country’s developmental needs.

Zimbabwe has reviewed its curriculum to produce a well-grounded learner, capable of contributing meaningfully to the development of the country while leading a fulfilling and happy life (Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education: The curriculum framework for primary and secondary education 2015-2022). The curriculum rests on five key pillars: (1) the legal and regulatory framework, (2) teacher capacity development, (3) teacher professional standards, (4) infrastructure development, and (5) research and innovation. Zimbabwean children need to be grounded early in literacy and numeracy, while also being exposed to the fundamental concepts of science and technology through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Use of information and communication technology (ICT) grounded in the literature and culture of our nation will develop citizens who are confident to move into the world of work and to sustain their lives (Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Sector Plan 2016-2020).

The competency-based curriculum that will start implementation in 2017 with ECD A, grade 1, Form 1, and Form 5 currently has 102 syllabuses for ECD, Primary, and Secondary classes. The aim of the curriculum is to cherish pupils’ Zimbabwean identity and values, prepare learners for life and work, and teach practical competencies, literacy, and numeracy skills. The curriculum promotes inclusivity, lifelong learning, equity and fairness, and gender sensitivity. The identified exit profiles are skills, knowledge, national identity, values, and attitudinal dispositions.

ECD was formally integrated into the education system in 2005 through a Permanent Secretary Circular and was annexed to existing primary schools. It is now bundled together with grades one and two and the four years are known as Infant school, grades 3-7 as junior, and forms 1-6 as secondary school. Apart from the various Permanent Secretary and Directors’ circulars and statutory instruments spanning from 2004 to 2014, there is no comprehensive ECD policy in Zimbabwe. Furthermore, the ECD sector is underfunded due to the national weak prevailing economic conditions in which most funds for education are allocated to salaries, leaving less than 3% for infrastructure and professional development. The ECD sector has about 427,800 learners taught by 4,000 teachers; 5,800 more qualified teachers are needed (Sundaymail (2016) Dr. Lazarus Dokora). Only 21.6% of children age 36-59 months are attending an early childhood education program.

There is need for building the capacity of existing educational officials to be grounded in ECD philosophy, approaches, and methods if they are to appreciate the value of the sector. The ECD sector has inadequate age-appropriate infrastructure and equipment. Very few learning materials resonate with the play and learn approach and the culture of the nation. Also, 27.6% children in the 0-8 year range show stunting and 11.3% are underweight (UNICEF, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2014: http://mics.unicef.org/surveys), demonstrating the need for school feeding programs.

The general outlook for the education sector in the country looks promising. Education sector financing is key to ensuring that all these plans are implemented and that children have access to high-quality education service provision in Zimbabwe.

 Related Zimbabwean Education Policies

The 2016-2020 Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP) will focus on phasing in the new curriculum, and on continual provision of professional upgrading, supervision, and other support for teachers. The ESSP will also focus on increasing access to learning through early identification of children with specific learning needs and more well-equipped classrooms for STEM and ICT; having the right institutional architecture, great leadership, accountable management, efficient and effective resource utilisation, and quality service delivery; as well as first class data collection, research, and analysis. 

The Education Act, revised in 2006, and other statutory instruments will need to be reviewed, revised, and updated to be consistent with the provisions of the new Constitution. The policy framework will be reviewed, developed, or rationalized. The ESSP commits to prepare and implement policy on (1) school-level financing, (2) ICT for the education sector, (3) school feeding, (4) inclusive education, (5) assessment for the infant years and review and development of assessment framework for new areas, (6) regulatory framework for teacher professional standards, (7) infant/early childhood, and (8) school health.

The Medium Term Strategic Plan 2011 – 2015 raised the professional status of teachers and enhanced the quality of their teaching by setting professional standards and providing a range of professional development opportunities. A robust Education Management Information System (EMIS) was established that has credible data to inform decision-making in education.

 For more information:

 Zimbabwe Ministry of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture. (2012). Education medium term plan 2011-2015: Zimbabwe.   

 Nyamanhindi, Richard. Ministry of Education and UNICEF launch real-time monitoring system. UNICEF Zimbabwe. https://www.unicef.org/zimbabwe/media_16120.html

Republic of Zimbabwe, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. Education sector strategic plan 2016-2020: Zimbabwe.  

Dziko Crews