7th June 2017
FORMER Primary and Secondary Education Minister, David Coltart, says the government prioritises presidential and cabinet foreign trips while routinely allocating meagre budgets to the education sector.
Speaking at the Trust of Schools Zimbabwe Association meeting in Victoria Falls on Monday, Senator Coltart said for the past 25 years, the Zanu PF government has paid lip service to the notion that education is a budgetary priority.
“In government’s own financial statements issued last November, it was shown that last year government spent some $44 million on Presidential and Cabinet travel against less than $400, 000 on educational materials.
In other words, we actually spent, on educational materials, just one percent of the actual amount spent on Presidential and Cabinet travel. That alone displays a serious warped sense of priorities,” said Coltart.
The former minister said during his last month in office less than $50,000 was transferred from treasury to run over 8,000 schools.
“I have no doubt that the situation is even worse now. The attitude towards teachers is also given in the fact that soldiers and policemen were paid their bonuses earlier than teachers. All of this demonstrates a mind-set which does not prioritise education in reality,” Coltart said.
He said the Zimbabwe education sector not only needs major policy shift that goes much deeper than simply improving teachers’ salaries but it also requires a national consensus and that the government should start to invest heavily in that area.
“This major shift must also include a steep increase in the amount of money allocated to building new schools and, critically, the amount we allocate to maintain schools, provide teaching materials and textbooks. The fabric of most government and local council schools is in a shocking state of disrepair,” said Coltart.
Senator Coltart also took a dig at the new curriculum saying he doubted very much if was going to ensure excellence in the education sector.
“Not being an educationist, I have asked educationists who I trust to comment on it and what they have reported back raises major concerns as to the usefulness of this plan as a guideline for education of Zimbabwean children. The issue of “patriotism” is of course problematic-a thin disguise for the ruling party propaganda and brain washing,” he said.
Coltart said he started the process of curriculum reforms as a minister but was frustrated at every turn by Zanu PF operatives.
“There was a particular concern that I would change the history syllabus to make it less partisan. My successor continued the process but of course has enjoyed the full support of senior civil servants, resulting in the new curriculum.”
Coltart was widely credited for restoring a semblance of normalcy in the education sector during the inclusive government.