30, 000 TEACHER RECRUITMENT: A JUSTFIED MOVE
The 2022 budget presented to Parliament on Friday, October 29, 2021 has raised a number of issues that have sparked debate in the nation. One such issue is the recruitment of 30, 000 teachers in 2022. A lot of views have been expressed on this proposal.
It is not necessary to delve into the various contending views on this proposal. Suffice it to mention that in a democracy there will always be contestations of ideas on any topic of national interest.
This is the essence of democracy. What is important to myself is the importance and urgency of such an undertaking to the children in school and society at large.
A meaningful debate of employing 30, 000 teachers must take into account the reality of the teacher situation in schools (especially rural schools) today.
Further, it is also to bear in mind that elections are not just about winning the contest for the mandate to govern. Rather, they are about what should be done for the current and next generation to create hope and optimism about their development. This is how I see this policy direction of recruiting 30, 000 trained teachers in 2022.
- TEACHER SITUATION IN SCHOOLS
As a keen follower of the development of education in our country, one key factor that stands out is extreme teacher shortage in rural schools. As a former Member of Parliament representing a rural constituency, one of the vexing questions which one had to face when visiting the constituency was that of teacher shortage in schools.
Parents and communities in rural areas are very alert and seriously concerned about the critical shortage of teachers in schools. Indeed, the reality of most rural schools is that there are three or less teachers handling seven or nine grades consisting of several classes.
Most rural schools are extremely deprived when it comes to provision of teachers and there are two factors which account for this. First, the recruitment of teachers has over the years been very low resulting in close to 60, 000 trained teachers being unemployed.
Secondly, the few teachers that are posted to rural schools end up seeking for transfers to urban and peri- urban schools for various reasons. The few teachers who are in rural schools are both overwhelmed and extremely overworked.
The shortage of teachers in rural schools has compromised the quality of education children in rural schools get.
From the standpoint of teacher supply, Zambia has a dual education system comprising a well-supplied urban school sector and a highly deprived rural school sector.
This situation is highly inequitable and every effort must be taken to narrow the gap. It is highly, irresponsible, immoral and inhuman to allow this state of education to continue.
It is therefore right and proper for any team of leaders with conscience to find ways or avenues of closing the gap in teacher supply between the urban and rural areas. This is important because:
“School is the platform of shaping the future. Every child must be given an equitable opportunity to be on this
platform to help them shape their minds, talent and character.”
- 30, 000 TEACHER RECRUITMENT IS JUSTIFIED.
The fundamental imperatives of society’s existence are that efforts must be made to educate the young, provide for the health of the people, ensure that security of life is guaranteed and there is availabilty of food supply.
These imperatives of life dictate that no trained teacher, health expert, security officer or agricultural expert should loiter the streets as unemployed.
It is an act of the highest degree of injustice for those in authority to allow 60, 000 trained teachers loiter the streets when millions of school children have no teachers.
Equally, it is extremely disheartening to see trained health workers crying for jobs when clinics and hospitals have shortages of staff to attend to patients.
The proposal to recruit 30, 000 teachers in 2022 should not be a debatable issue to any right thinking mind. The issue should be to ask how quickly can it implemented because it is long overdue.
When I was given an opportunity to serve the nation as Minister of Education in 2007 there were 17, 000 trained teachers on the streets unemployed. I told myself that it would be immoral and a great disservice to the school children and generations to come for me to sit in the office as Minister when children had no teachers.
I directed that every effort be made to recruit 7, 000 unemployed teachers that year namely 2007. That the remaining 10, 000 unemployed trained teachers be employed in 2008.
Further, a policy direction was given that from 2008 the ministry should employ 5, 000 trained teachers annually which would enable every trained teacher to be employed.
The Patriotic Front leadership found this policy in place when they took over government in 2011. I recall that this policy was followed the following year and thereafter the numbers of employed teachers annually dropped.
I remember privately asking the Minister of General Education then at Parliament why the policy of recruiting 5, 000 trained teachers was no longer followed and the answer given was because of resource constraints.
Recruitment of 30, 000 trained teachers as proposed in the 2022 budget is a justified move. The Minister of Finance should work extra hard to achieve this target and take necessary steps to recruit the other set of unemployed trained teachers in the 2023 budget.
The Ministry of Education should come up with a plan that will ensure that trained teachers from colleges and universities are deployed in schools and that none are left to loiter on the streets when classrooms are yawning for their services.
This commendable effort of 30, 000 teacher recruitment for schools should take into account the following:
- First priority should be given to rural schools and schools in peri-urban and urban areas with double and triple sessions which arise from high teacher/pupil ratios.
- Teachers deployed in rural schools should agree in writing that they will serve the nation in those areas they are deployed for a specific period.
- The enhanced Constituency Development Fund resources should be used to construct teachers’ houses, sanitary facilities, classrooms and boreholes in schools that are lacking.
- Every government school in the rural areas should have within its vicinity a health centre to serve the teachers, pupils and the surrounding community. Resources for this can come from the CDF.
- Incentives like rural hardship allowances should continue to be given to teachers working in remote rural areas.
- Commercial banks should be encouraged to open up small branches in rural areas to serve teachers and other civil servants and the general community. This will cut on the time taken, and long distances teachers cover to go to the banks for their salaries.
- For ease of access to areas where teachers are every effort must be made to clear feeder roads. Teachers in remote rural areas use different modes of transport to reach their schools including oxcarts.
- The programme to extend communication towers in unserved and underserved remote rural areas should continue to enable teachers and other civil servants connected to communication services.
- The rural electrification programme should continue to connect schools in remote areas. This will be a big incentive for teachers and other civil servants working in those areas.
- Teachers are builders of nations. They should be encouraged to participate in SMEs programmes and be given incentives like small loans to establish their locally grounded businesses.