Grim conditions in hospitals, schools

nurses_protestHARARE Conditions in Zimbabwes health and education sectors remain dire despite teachers and health workers returning to work and donors injecting millions of dollars to revive schools and hospitals, according to two government reports made available to reporters last week. (Pictured: Striking nurses Conditions in hospitals remain dire despite aid a

The reports marking the first official attempts to assess the extend of decay in the countrys once envied public school and hospital systems after a decade of acute recession and political crisis were prepared by Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupes office and the National Education Advisory Board (NEAB).

In a report titled Report on Provincial Tours of the Education and Health Sectors, Khupe said public schools and hospitals across the countrys 10 provinces were critically under-funded with basic infrastructure either non-existent or dilapidated due to years of neglect.

Bush boarding system

In a vivid illustration of the desperate situation in Zimbabwes once glorious public education sector, Khupe describes what she calls the bush boarding system in the remote Binga district where students have built squatter camps in the bush near Binga and Manjolo high schools because authorities could not provide boarding facilities for learners.

The two schools cater for a large area and some of the students coming from far off villages either have to live in the pole and dagga squatter camps or walk long distances of up to 20 km everyday to school, according Khupes report.

In yet more examples of grim conditions in education, Khupe said in her report that the textbook/pupil ratio at most schools was as high as 33 learners per one textbook, while in the northern Hwange district there was a shortfall of 280 primary school classrooms and 53 for secondary schools.

The enormity of what needs to be done to return our education and health systems to their former national and international glory and acclaim cannot be (overstated), Khupe said.

Some of these challenges are as a result of institutional administrative weaknesses, it is quite clear that many of them mirror the economic challenges faced by the nation as a whole, said Khupe, who toured national hospitals and schools between July and August.

Describing the situation in hospitals Khupe said: All the nine hospitals toured had serious problems with shortages of drugs . the equipment is old and in a state of disrepair. There are shortages of beds and mattresses, and some patients have to lie on the floor. There is also a serious shortage of linen and blankets ward equipment and supplies.

Low morale

While Khupe examined the situation in both public hospitals and schools, the NEAB assessed the state of Zimbabwes public schools, releasing a report depicting an educating sector on its knees, weighed down by a severe shortage of resources and low morale among teachers because of poor pay.

The report titled Rapid Assessment of Primary and Secondary Education laments the governments failure to pay teachers who it says had been reduced to paupers because of inadequate salaries.

In addition to a demotivated teaching staff, a shortage of textboolks and other learning materials as well as political violence that has targeted teachers had all contributed to knock Zimbabwes once respected public schools system off the pedestal, said the NEAB that toured schools between March and July.

It said: Teacher morale was very low in all schools visited. Teachers were demotivated by low salaries, lack of security in rural areas where teachers became victims of political violence in 2008, lack of accommodation and shortages of teaching and learning resources such as textbooks, stationery. The image of the teacher was at its lowest since independence.

The NEAB that was tasked by Education Minister to assess the situation in the education sector urged the government to revamp the Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council that has been rocked by accusations of incompetence and corruption in recent years.

The two reports were expected to be discussed by Cabinet last week, government sources said.

Zimbabwes power-sharing government led by President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Premier Arthur Mutambara has promised to revive the economy and restore basic services such as health and education that had virtually collapsed over the past decade.

But failure by the unity government which says it requires a total US$10 billion to get Zimbabwe on its feet again to convince rich Western nations to release grants and soft loans has hampered its ability to drive the recovery effort.

Western governments insist they will not provide support until they see evidence Mugabe is committed to genuinely sharing power with his former opposition foes.

Post published in: Analysis

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