IN a recent post-Cabinet briefing, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced that conditions had been set for schools’ second term calendar to start on May 3, ending on August 4.
Without doubt, parents and guardians are making last minute preparations.
However, investigations made by this publication reveal that some teachers are cashing in on extra lessons, popularly known as ‘maeke’.
Despite being labelled as an illegal practice, teachers in various learning institutions were conducting extra lessons during the school holidays, with some even doing it during school days within classrooms.
Investigations show that conducting of extra lessons in various institutions is considered a ‘side hustle’ or moonlighting that both teachers and headmasters enjoy benefitting from.
Government has already warned schools against conducting extra lessons during holidays, adding that they remain illegal despite some schools claiming they had been given the green light to conduct the lessons.
In some schools, the illegal practice of conducting extra lessons is well crafted and connected to the extent that even District Schools Inspectors (DSIs) cannot find out during their visits.
The sad part is, the conduct of some teachers has left parents and guardians divided with some paying an amount being asked for extra lessons while others cannot afford to pay anything outside of the gazetted school fees.
Some parents revealed that they are forced to pay due to fear that their children will fail while others think that only school fees should cover their children’s education.
Among the parents and guardians who were interviewed by this publication is Gogo Mhavhaire (not real name) from Chitungwiza.
Her wish is to see her granddaughter go to school and complete her studies with better results but her dream is being shuttered because she cannot afford to pay for the extra lessons.
“What pains me is, I strive to pay full school fees but my granddaughter, who is in Grade Three, is not receiving satisfactory education because I cannot afford to pay for extra lessons and holiday school work,” she said.
“Sometimes she is not given homework or her work is not marked because only those who have paid for extra lessons can enjoy the benefit of the teacher’s attention and efforts in class.
“Last term, some teachers could hide behind ‘following’ COVID-19 protocols by letting my granddaughter attend school for only two days a week while her classmates, who have paid extra, were told to attend for the whole week.”
Further investigations by this publication reveal that most teachers, be it in rural and urban areas, continue to conduct extra lessons despite warnings issued by the Government.
The need to make more money from extra lessons has seen even ECD teachers asking parents to pay US$1 or US$2 per child, while some in exam classes are getting around US$10 per child in a week.
Gone are the days, said Gogo Mavhaire, when the poor could also access education just the same as the rich.
“Her teacher demands US$3 per week for each child and those who cannot afford, like my grandchild, are sometimes asked to sit at the back of the classroom or play outside,” she said.
“I cannot make a report because I fear that my granddaughter will receive worse treatment than she is receiving now.”
For teachers in rural learning institutions, some parents said they have to part with not only money but grains, chickens and even goats for extra lessons.
Unlike Gogo Mavhaire , some parents said paying for extra lessons means their children are enjoying the ‘extra’ effort that teachers have to put for their children to attain better education.
Teachers who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity said extra lessons are the only means for teachers to earn extra cash.
Despite Government efforts to increase teachers’ salaries, to some it is not enough hence they resort to extra lessons.
However, Taungana Ndoro, the Director of Communication and Advocacy Unit in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, stressed that conducting of extra lessons by teachers remains illegal.
“We need to work as a team and we urge parents to report such teachers to our district and provincial offices,” he said.
The issue of conducting extra lessons by teachers not only displays lack of professionalism and selfish conduct of some teachers but reminds one of the pre-independence era education system in the country which was used as an instrument of oppression, domination and discrimination against the black majority.
Those who cannot afford to pay for extra lessons fail to acquire satisfactory education due to disparities that exist between the rich and the poor.
Many can face bullying and discrimination from fellow classmates.
As a result of education being connected to socio-economic development of the country, the Government has made strides in ensuring that all children have access to education.
A UNICEF 2021 annual report revealed that there are various barriers for children in accessing education which include household poverty, abuse, remoteness, poor infrastructure and socio-cultural norms such as child marriages.
Zimbabwe, therefore, has been making strides in developing alternative ways to ensure continuity of learning.
In collaboration with UNICEF, Microsoft and TelOne, Zimbabwe introduced a digital learning platform that enabled remote learning for about 79 560 children.
This was made possible by launching a Learning Passport Zimbabwe.
The Learning Passport Zimbabwe covers the entire primary and secondary curriculum.
This way, children can continue their formal education.
According to the UNICEF 2021 annual report, Zimbabwe is the second country in Africa to launch the Learning Passport, enabling children across the country to access high quality courses and resources in and out of schools.
With the Learning Passport, a learner has the ability to access hundreds of prerecorded radio lessons.
These lessons can be downloaded on the dedicated Android Mobile application and then be played later offline in areas in communities or settings where there is less or no connectivity at all.
Such efforts thus even provide learning opportunities for disadvantaged children who are out of school or behind in their curriculum because they were left out of extra lessons.
It remains a responsibility for society to stop illegal activities such as conducting extra lessons.