Harmony Agere and Emmanuel Kafe
With over 7 000 schools, five million learners and 140 thousand teachers, available books for the new curriculum are just a drop in the ocean, publishers say.
This, according to suppliers, is a result of improper planning on part of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
Sources say Government delayed inviting tenders for new curriculum books until the very last minute.
As such, schools are reported to have been affected with a serious shortage resulting in teachers and school children across the country sharing textbooks.
“Communication was a big challenge and this is why new curriculum text books continue to be scarce nationwide,” said Zimbabwe Book Publishers Association’s Mr Blazio Tafireyi.
“For example, publishers were never given a timetable for implementation.”
Mr Tafireyi said the normal stocks they had in warehouses were made obsolete overnight with the commencement of the new curriculum.
He says publishers were given two months to produce above 130 titles each. However, funding remain a big challenge.
“Publishers, ZPH included, had to sell fixed assets to fund production of books,” said Mr Tafireyi.
“Whatever we managed to print, the ministry had no money to buy, so in short, the supplies to schools remain a trickle.
“You will be lucky to find a copy per grade in rural schools, schools are relying on samples given by publishers only.”
There are now fears that the effect on learners and the whole education system could be much bigger than anticipated.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president, Dr Takavafira Zhou said the situation is dire.
“Do not let them lie to you that there are books, there are no books, teachers and students are having to share the few that are there,” he said.
“In the rural areas the situation is even worse, this is an urgent matter that we are raising in our negotiations with the Government.”
The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Professor Paul Mavima, acknowledged the challenge but said the Government is already distributing books with a consignment having already been delivered to 3 000 schools.
“We are aware of the situation and have already distributed a significant number of books,” he said.
“There is no longer an outcry about the issue as there was before.”
Experts say critical shortage of textbooks and other teaching and learning materials will in the long run affect the literacy rate that Zimbabwe prides itself with.”
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