How we turned education sector around – David Coltart

via How we turned education sector around – NewsDay Zimbabwe by David Coltart October 7, 2013

ZIMBABWE is recognised as having one of the best education systems in Africa, but when I took office as Minister of Education in February 2008 I found it in chaos.

Nearly all schools were closed, 90 000 teachers were on strike, public exams written the previous year hadn’t even been marked and there were hardly any textbooks in schools.

Morale amongst teachers was low — 20 000 teachers left the service in 2007 and 2008 mainly because hyperinflation had rendered them destitute.

Many had been beaten and intimidated by militia loyal to President Robert Mugabe.

There was little I could offer to attract teachers back into service.

After years of mismanagement of the economy by Mugabe’s government Treasury’s coffers were dry. We could only offer a monthly salary of $100 to teachers. I engaged teacher trade unions and arranged for them to meet with the new Minister of Finance so that they could see for themselves the parlous state of the economy.

I brought their leaders on to a new Education Advisory Board and implemented their suggestions. I offered immediate protection for teachers facing threats by moving those feeling insecure to safety. I declared an amnesty for those teachers who had fled.

Realising that government was not in a position to pay teachers a livable wage I turned to parents and allowed them to pay teachers incentives. They responded magnificently and in most schools increased teachers’ conditions dramatically. In Cabinet I argued for improved conditions for teachers.

At the end of my tenure as Minister last week the education sector has been stabilised. All schools are now open. Exams are written and marked on time.

The textbook/pupil ratio is 1:1, the best in Africa.

But key to stability is the fact that we now have 109 000 teachers in service and have not suffered any work disruptions in schools for two years. Entry level teachers are now paid US$400 per month and parents are still supplementing teacher salaries through incentives. This is still low but way above what they earned when I took over.

Having got teachers back into service I then focussed on the professional development of teachers.

Agreement was recently reached with the Global Partnership for Education to commence a $23,6 million teacher retraining exercise. Another programme assists teachers identify children who suffered during the chaos years pre 2009 so that deficiencies in literacy and numeracy rates can be addressed.

Despite the improvements of the last 4 years I remain concerned regarding the plight of Zimbabwe’s teachers and education sector. A committed and enthusiastic teacher body is the most important element in any education system. The leading education systems in the world in countries such as Singapore, South Korea and Finland are marked by the way they treat teachers. In those countries the teaching profession attracts the brightest students because the profession is well paid and respected. In Finland one cannot teach without a Masters degree.

If Zimbabwe is to build a world class education system future Governments need to recognise the need to invest heavily in the sector and particularly in teachers. Teachers need to be paid better, need better housing and living conditions, especially in remote rural schools and need to be respected.

Teacher training colleges need to be improved and programmes for professional development implemented.

A strong education system is the most important foundation for sustained economic growth and development in all countries. But key to that strength is how teachers are treated. Sadly many developing countries treat their soldiers better than teachers.

The same countries often invest more in defence and in the retention of power than they do in education. That certainly applies to Zimbabwe. For as long as that continues the goal to transform Zimbabwe into an African economic powerhouse will remain illusory. 


  • comment-avatar
    maisokwazo 11 years ago

    Mr. Coltart well done but watch you effort go to waste with the hogs and in this present scenario at the hands of these hooligans and vagabonds. Ya-ah wait and see. Already the teachers are being told to be patient while the thieves are solidifying and intensifying their loot and when all is looted and gone then that is when the teachers will awaken and realize that there was and there is nothing to wait for and to be patient about with these outlaws.

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    ZimJim 11 years ago

    Well done David. The future of any country lies in the quality of it’s youth. No education, no quality youth, no future.

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    Jim Strysko 11 years ago

    Brilliant, friend! The Lord takes note of the sacrifices of so many teachers (and countless others) to love one’s neighbor as Jesus said. And the nations? Isaiah said they are dust on his scales. All the machinations of men don’t even register on God’s standard of measurement. Such a privilege to know you and so may good folk in your splendid country! Carry on.

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    Stephen 11 years ago

    Good work David,if this children should be well educated,they will manage the country in a way that will benefit our country.

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    munzwa 11 years ago

    Well done Mr Coltart,and the efforts of our teachers is much appreciated. Imagine the indignity of our teachers being forced to ask for assistance in voting!!shame shame shame on you zanu

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    Chagara 11 years ago

    Well done, David . You are Zimbabwean through and through. Hard facts !

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    Nyoni 11 years ago

    Well said David. You proved what can be done under good management. Do you think they have learnt anything We doubt it. By getting rid of you now they will go back to plundering the monies without castigatiön from anybody . That is the reason why the elections were rigged. Nothing changes under Zanu, nothing.

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    Morris 11 years ago

    I have always respected you very much, it is under you that I slightly thought of going back to Zimbabwe and teach as I do here in SA. Now that tables are turned, I do not have even have the desire to hear anything about that. However, I salute you.

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    Morris 11 years ago

    Mr. David Coltart you are an extremely good manager, how sad that we are back with our recycled useless looters.

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    Jaded 11 years ago

    Coltart should have entitled this article “How I turned the education sector around” Count how many times he uses the word “I” and how many times he uses the word “we”. Typical politician. Time to get over yourself Mr. Coltart. You didn’t do it all on your own. UNICEF money paid for most of it. We all know you did a good job. Blowing your own trumpet is demeaning.

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    Morris 11 years ago

    For the first time I understand why some people end up choosing war. I mean you choose peace the devils already in power frustrate you by rigging.

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    Mine Supervisor 11 years ago

    Mr Coltart stop lying to the readers, having the best education system did not start in 2009. We had that reputation well before we knew you let alone became a minister. Except for text-books what did you do? we were receiving the text books well before you and up to the late 90s when you guys formed a political party and the money for education was diverted to funding your MDC. We are not as stupid as you want us to believe. Good for you because you do not have independent thinking followers! Unfortuantely for me, your claims are nonsensical although I did vote for you. Come 2018, you will not have my vote!

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    ZimJim 11 years ago

    @ “Mine Supervisor”. HaHa! Another of Bob’s brainwashed kleptocrats, Google that one! Then get a life! 🙂