Dokora, independent colleges set to clash

Source: Dokora, independent colleges set to clash | The Financial Gazette January 12, 2017

THE Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Lazarus Dokora is headed for a clash with owners of a section of private colleges over their impending regularisation, which they deem to be unworkable.
The independent colleges have been operating using standards prescribed by their internal management systems, with the Education Ministry having little influence over their activities.
Last year, Dokora directed them to form a professional association — the Zimbabwe Association of Independent Colleges (ZICA) — representing all private colleges and governed by a proper constitution to be able to articulate issues affecting them.
It is that association which will be tasked with the recruitment of teachers who hold recognised teaching qualifications.
Dokora also declared, among a raft of other changes, that independent colleges must formalise their operating systems and adopt professional standards similar to those applicable to government-run schools.
“Independent colleges must be run professionally by recruiting qualified teachers and desisting from employing basic education holders and other degreed graduates, who do not hold education qualifications. How you will package out your unqualified teachers is your own child (none of my business),” he said last year while addressing delegates who attended a conference convened for the independent colleges.
“I would like to appreciate the efforts being made in bringing colleges together. We are ready to engage independent colleges and assist them as long as they are operating within the realm of the Education Act. You must draft a constitution for the Association of Independent Colleges by September 2016 so that it will be tabled in Cabinet in order to facilitate the smooth running of business,” he added.
But private colleges are of the view that Dokora’s proposals are too ambitious and would not necessarily improve the quality of education.
“Directing the independent college teachers to attain the postgraduate diploma in education qualification should not just be an imposed order before engaging them and listening to their concerns. This is not different from the way the national pledge was introduced before the parents were consulted. There is need to first establish the necessity of this qualification,” said one independent college principal.
He argued that the country’s education standards actually boomed during the period when most schools were manned by temporary teachers in the 1990s, pointing out that the Minister’s proposals were just converting the teachers to mere theorists with nothing to offer to the students.
Another administrator at an independent college in the Midlands province described Dokora’s move as contradicting the spirit of indigenisation.
“The government has been preaching the gospel of empowerment, but when Dokora is formalising standards he is indirectly interfering with our independence thereby threatening our investments. I foresee a situation whereby most operators will close shop and invest their money in other sectors of the economy,” he said.
A teacher at one of the private colleges in the capital, Vanessa Netsai, raised concern over the fact that Dokora was not doing anything to support teachers financially to attain the proposed qualifications.
“Most of these independent colleges are not offering competitive salaries compared to our government counterparts. We are paid on an hourly basis ranging between US$5 and US$8. This means that most of these teachers will not be able to pay tuition for the programmes, but unfortunately the Minister seems not to be concerned about that,” she said.
Responding to the criticism, Dokora this week said that regularisation of independent colleges would take centre stage after they have formed their association.
“They must complete the task I have given them which is to form ZICA. This association will then bring forth all their concerns to the Ministry and considerations will then be made,” he said.
Member Ndlovu, the vice principal at People’s College, believes that the formalisation process will improve the country’s education standards.
“There is nothing wrong with the Minister’s proposals. Most colleges have been operating clandestinely and this should stop. The education qualification is very important because it gives the teachers knowledge on how to deliver knowledge and educating the whole person. Most students have been failing to tap into their potential because of poor standards,” said Ndlovu.