Non-formal education: Alternative pathway

Tendai Chara —
As efforts to align and adjust the updated curriculum with existing education practices gathers momentum, calls have been growing louder for Zimbabweans to fully embrace non-formal education.

Upon attaining of independence, the Government of Zimbabwe introduced Non-Formal Education (NFE) which included adult literacy programmes to provide a second chance education pathway for various categories of learners such as young people and adults who had never attended school or had dropped out of school due to a multitude of reasons.

However, despite having made such efforts in education provision especially for the marginalised, NFE was not supported by any policy regulatory framework and there has been a decline in the number of people that are taking the non-formal education route.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education then introduced and put into gear the National Non-Formal Education Policy (NFE) in 2015, which seeks to promote provision of high quality, relevant and inclusive Non-Formal Education, increase access to education through the Non-Formal Education route, and provision of functional skills to adult learners, youths and out-of-school children.

The NFE was designed to contribute to human capital development by facilitating access to education to all citizens.

The policy caters for those who might not have attended school, those who dropped out and also those who did not make the most of the educational opportunities availed to them.

It reaffirms Government’s commitment to increasing access to education for all Zimbabweans as enshrined in Section 75 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which states that every citizen has a right to education.

The NFE is part of efforts to implement aspects of the Nziramasanga Report on education which was commissioned 18 years ago.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has the mandate to lead the implementation of the NFE policy. Other players have come on board to support the implementation of Non-Formal Education programmes.

Non-formal education includes instruction provided outside of the regular educational schools.

NFE has programmes like basic literacy, functional literacy, Zimbabwe Adult Basic Education Courses, Part Time and Continuing Education and Open Distance Learning programmes which can be accessed to any school in Zimbabwe. Non-formal education starts from infant school through to secondary school.

It goes all the way up to tertiary education.

Apart from academics, the ministry also has the Functional Literacy programme which enhances entrepreneurial skills.

In one such programme, the Zimbabwe Farmers Union, in collaboration with the Barclays Bank, conducted a training programme for farmers.

This programme is meant to equip post-literacy learners with skills to start Income Generating Programmes.

NFE provides a higher degree of flexibility for learners who want to acquire various competencies and life skills outside the formal school system.

In 2015, Government directed primary and secondary schools to establish non-formal education curricula to absorb more than one million teenagers and young adults who were out of school for various reasons.

The directive was meant to widen access to education for those who drop out of school owing to marriage or failure to pay school fees among other challenges.

Many people are unable to study for many reasons. A national assessment which was carried by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in 2015 revealed that 1 234 642 children were out of school.

As a result, Government saw it fit to launch the non-formal education policy.

The Zimbabwe Adult Basic Education Course (ZABEC) is a primary school programme for adults. It leads to the writing of the ZIMSEC Grade 7 Examinations together with formal education candidates.

This is a course done in three years as opposed to the conventional seven years to complete the primary school course

Although Government is the main driver of non-formal education, municipalities, churches, and other private sector Non-Governmental Organisations are also involved. Despite the advantages related to non-formal education, stakeholders in the education are gravely concerned with the low uptake in non-formal education.

Most pupils who fail Ordinary and Advanced levels prefer private colleges to supplement, despite the fact that they charge more than formal schools.

The major challenges affecting non-formal education is the payment of fees. Those that enrol for this type of programme would have failed to pay for fees in formal schools.

Teachers are paid from the fees that the learners pay and this becomes a major challenge. The other challenge faced by this programme is a lack of awareness. Many people are not aware of the programme, hence the low uptake.

The ministry and its partners are, however, making efforts to make sure that the programme

The Education Coalition of Zimbabwe (ECOZI) in collaboration with World Education Inc (WEI) complimented the efforts of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to publicise the Non-Formal Education Policy with the hope of increasing understanding of the NFE policy by out of school children.

Maxwell Rafomoyo, ECOZI National Co-ordinator, says despite the efforts made so far to market the NFE, there is still a low uptake of non-formal education programmes.

“The ministry launched the policy at national level and trained all provincial officers responsible and other critical education partners. One of the provisions of the policy is that all schools should establish a component of the Non-Formal Education,” Rafomoyo said.

According to Rafomoyo, a verification exercise found out that the existing policy framework and the Government’s political will was adequate and supportive to provide education to out of school children.

Rafomoyo said despite the efforts that are being made and the number of schools that are supposed to offer non-formal education, the uptake of the programmes is not impressive.

“We noted that whilst most schools are now centres for non-formal education children who are out of school, community members are largely unaware of NFE policy provisions. This may be contributing to low enrolment in non-informal programmes.

Rafomoyo said non-formal education contributes to human capital development and enhances the participation of citizens in the socio-economic development of the country in line with the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio- Economic Transformation (ZIM-ASSET).To ensure effective implementation of the Non-Formal Education, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms have been put in place so that the desired outcomes are achieved.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education remains the custodian of this policy document and all players and implementing partners are expected to comply with the policy provisions.

Since 1980, Zimbabwe’s literacy campaigns have yielded impressive results, resulting in the country having one of the highest literacy rates in Africa. This is despite the financial difficulties facing the education sector.

According to Government, in 2015, there were 4 340 centres offering non-formal education with an enrolment of 145 044 learners disaggregated into 61 510 males and 83 534 females.

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