At least 1 194 primary and secondary schools, averaging about 300 per year, were built countrywide in the last four years in line with the Government’s quest to reduce the distance learners walk to and from school, and ensure the delivery of quality education to all citizens, latest statistical data has shown.
This comes as the number of teachers for Early Childhood Development (ECD), at primary and secondary levels has increased significantly between 2017 and 2021, thus, reducing the teacher-learner ratio across the sectors.
It also comes as the demand for education keeps increasing owing to the expansionary policy embarked on since independence in 1980.
The lack of adequate schools has often exposed parents seeking enrolment for their children to dodgy private school owners.
According to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Statistics Report 2021, 958 primary schools and 236 secondary schools were built between 2017 and 2021, taking the total to 10 147.
Had it not been for the Covid-19 contagion, which slowed down progress as a result of lockdowns enforced to curb its spread, the number could have been much higher.
In 2017, there were 6 123 primary schools with 6 071 of them offering ECD facilities and 2 830 secondary schools. In 2021, the numbers surged to 7 081 primary schools, 7 057 of which offered ECD. A total of 17 had boarding facilities while 3 066 were secondary schools, with 61 being boarding schools. In comparison, there were 2 401 primary schools and 177 secondary schools in Zimbabwe, taking the tally to 2 578.
“Although there was a progressive increase in the number of ECDs, primary and secondary schools, (from 2017 to 2021), the percentage increases did not follow a similar pattern. Between 2017 and 2019 there were some year-on-year percentage increases in ECDs and primary schools. In contrast, secondary schools had a suppressed percentage increase in 2018,” reads the report.
“Year 2019 had the highest percent increases for the three levels, with a percentage increase of 6,49 percent for ECDs, 6,09 percent for primary schools, and 2,89 percent for secondary schools.”
The MoPSE 2021 report notes that the percentage increase in the number of schools constructed for the three levels dropped significantly in 2021 “possibly due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic”, and increased notably in 2021.
Schools in Zimbabwe are categorised as registered, unregistered, or satellite. The bulk of primary schools (75,26 percent) are registered, while 9,39 percent are unregistered and 15,35 percent are satellite schools. At least 68,17 percent of secondary schools are registered and 3,26 percent are unregistered, with 28,57 percent constituting satellite schools.
Explains the report: “In absolute terms, Zimbabwe has 5 329 registered primary schools and 2 090 registered secondary schools. The number of unregistered primary schools is 665, in contrast to unregistered secondary schools which are 100 in total. The number of primary and secondary satellite schools is 1 087 and 876, respectively.”
In addition, schools in the country are considered as Government or non-government, and further categorised in terms of the responsible authorities. Most of the schools, totalling 5 322 primary and 2 185 secondary schools, are run by the Government through line ministries, city councils, district councils, and town boards.
Schools run by churches/missions, mines, private companies, farms, trusts and private individuals, among others, are classified as non-governmental.
Furthermore, the MoPSE 2021 report notes that the projected school-going population in Zimbabwe, constituting learners between three and 18 years, is 6 694 618, with 50,23 percent of them being females and 49,77 percent male.
However, the actual enrolment is 2 899 259 learners (1 450 416 males, 1 448 843 females) and 1 087 632 at primary and secondary levels, respectively, summing up to 3 986 891. As of last year, about 1 001 244 learners (495 262 males, 505 982 females) were enrolled in lower secondary (Form 1-4), while 86 388 were in upper secondary school (Form 5-6).
The majority of primary school learners (72,98 percent) are enrolled in rural schools, while 27,02 percent are in urban schools.
For the secondary level, however, there are more female learners enrolled in urban schools than in rural ones for all the forms. Remarkably, save for Skills Orientation, the proportion of female learners in urban schools stands at more than 50 percent across all the forms.
Notably, the number of teachers increased annually between 2017 and 2019 for the three levels of the education system. To date there are 17 937 ECD teachers, 80 175 primary school teachers, and 48 740 secondary school teachers, taking the tally to 146 852, adds the report.
Parents who spoke to this publication expressed gratitude to the Government for spearheading the construction of more schools as they often parted ways with substantial amounts of money on enrolment charges, fees and transport since most schools were not in their locale.
Mr Admire Ndori of Epworth said as parents they risked their children’s lives by making them use pirate taxis and unregistered kombis to and from school due to transport challenges.
“We thank the Government for the schools that were built in Epworth and other areas. We have seen a lot of schools being built, schools like Adelaide Secondary School, which is nearby.
“The move has eased the burden on us as we often risked our children’s lives to pirate taxis and unregistered kombis on a daily basis,” he said.
Ms Chenai Mutumha from Marlborough, Harare, said she appreciated the building of more schools by the Government as overcrowding in schools, particularly in the wake of the coronavirus, was a cause for concern.
Mr Takudzwa Chainacho said although there were many schools in Highfield, Harare, for example, the Government should continue building more schools in new suburbs, like Southlands, Southlea Park, and Eastview to ease pressure on existing schools.
“I stay in Highfield, and there are many schools there. More schools should be built in new areas since children from those areas continue crowding existing schools forcing them to ‘hot-sit,’” he said.
Another parent, Mrs Tabeth Musenga, lauded the Government for building more schools, saying education was a crucial sector in the country’s development.