Housing shortage critical: Rural teachers squat like rats

Vote Mukumba, a rural teacher, has to walk more than 15 km every day to school. His day starts at around 4am and crossees two rivers before reaching Mahwada primary school in Hurungwe.

Some schools have erected mud and poles structures with thatched roofs for the teachers to live in.
Some schools have erected mud and poles structures with thatched roofs for the teachers to live in.

“Sometimes it is difficult to deliver because all I need is time to rest. My only motivation is that some grade one pupils travel further than I do, and my passion for the profession,” said Mukumba.

“I just count myself lucky because this is where I come from. There are teachers here, deployed from others provinces, who have to squat like rats in the few houses the school provides,” said Mukumba.

The Zimbabwean visited some of the schools and saw the deplorable conditions the teachers are living in.

Most houses at schools such as Mahwada, Kavaya, Kapfunde and Zvarai in Hurungwe have huge cracks and rusty corrugated iron sheets.

“The situation is dire here – the shelter is uninhabitable. Last year one of our staff members was severely injured by hail storms. Most teachers shun deployment here because of the critical accommodation situation,” said Kavaya headmaster, who only identified himself as Manhenga.

At Zvarai Primary School in Hurungwe, up to four families share a five-roomed house, using the same kitchen and different bedrooms.

“Imagine grown-up children sharing the same bedroom with their parents, that is the situation here. We also face problems associated with sharing rooms such as theft, feud and disputes. It needs great passion to go through this hell every day,” said a teacher at one of the schools.

Some schools have erected mud and poles structures with thatched roofs for the teachers to live in.

“I cannot invite my family and friends here because the place is just not suitable for human habitation, I live like a squatter,” said another teacher.

“I have been reduced to a bachelor, I do not have any place to put my family hence I have sent them back to my rural area in Gutu,” said Rodwell Chiwaya.

A mini survey done in Matabeleland showed that 70% of teaching posts in the provinces were occupied by temporary teachers owing to the collapse of infrastructure that has caused qualified staff to shun the area.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe Secretary General, Raymond Majongwe, said a recent survey showed that rural schools in the area faced a critical shortage of skilled teachers, and if urgent measures were not put in place, education standards would be comparable to nothing.

“When we sent our teams to the two provinces of Matabeleland, they were confronted with a catastrophic situation. In districts such as Lupane and Binga we discovered that the only qualified person was the school head and the rest were temporary teachers,” said Majongwe.

He attributed the lack of trained teachers to “anti-people” policies by the government, which he accused of exposing children to uncompetitive learning environments.

Government acknowledges that it has failed to plan for the rural and farm schools hence the numerous challenges they are facing. Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture David Coltart said there were no housing facilities for teachers and even for the school children.

“We are in the process of drafting a policy that will ensure teachers take up post in rural schools. We also want to draft a policy which will enable teachers working in the rural schools to get sound rural allowances in an effort to attract more teachers there,” said Coltart.

“Years of zero economic investment in the sector have seen the working conditions in the civil servants and particularly in the schools’ infrastructure plummet, forcing workers to either resign or migrate to towns. It is encouraging to see that most teachers in rural teachers do not have incentives but their work is great,” he said.

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