HARARE, ZIMBABWE – Nyasha Kambumba, 11, has been out of school for a week.
She says she is looking forward to seeing her friends, but worries that she will be sent home by her teachers when it begins to rain again.
“If only we had floors in our classrooms and ceilings, too. When it rains, it is difficult for us to hear and learn,” she says, referring to the sound of the rain on the corrugated metal sheets that cover the roof. The floor of the classroom gets muddy, too, she says.
Kudzai Mazvarirwofa, GPJ Zimbabwe
Nyasha is one of 400 students at Hatcliff 3 Primary School, a community school with seven makeshift classrooms in a high-density suburb in Harare, the capital city of this southern African nation. During the rainy season, which typically lasts from November until March, teachers are often forced to cancel classes for days or even weeks at a time because the classrooms get flooded.
Unpredictable rainfall has made the floods difficult to predict. Heavy rains in some years are followed by drier seasons the next. But because the suburb is built on wetlands, once the river is full, the area floods consistently.
Changing rain patterns and a struggling economy due to political instability are wreaking havoc in the nation’s rural schools. Teachers and students living in informal settlements and rural areas say poor infrastructure is just one of many factors limiting educational opportunities for the country’s young people.
Political Revolution in Zimbabwe
After 37 years of controversial rule, Robert Mugabe resigned as president of Zimbabwe on Nov. 21.
Mugabe, 93, was the only leader Zimbabwe has known since the country gained independence in 1980. Once considered a hero of his country’s independence movement, he became an all-powerful ruler who urged his supporters to use violence to implement his policies. Zimbabwe’s economy disintegrated under Mugabe’s rule, and the nation has suffered under strict global sanctions for decades.
Mugabe was placed under house arrest by Zimbabwe’s military after a Nov. 14 takeover. Days later, Mugabe’s ZANU-PF political party fired him as party leader on Nov. 19. That day, thousands of people marched peacefully in Harare to celebrate Mugabe’s dismissal. The party gave him a deadline of midday on Nov. 20 to resign as president, which he did not do.
Zimbabwe’s parliament began the impeachment process on Nov. 21, during which they received and read a letter of resignation from Mugabe. Celebrations erupted in the capital and throughout the country. Recently fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa will be sworn in as president in the coming days, and he is expected to serve the remainder of Mugabe’s last term. General elections are tentatively scheduled for late 2018.
In the weeks and months to come, Global Press Journal will continue to provide holistic coverage of the changing nation.
This year, primary and secondary education saw a smaller share of the national budget, with a provisional estimate of $803 million compared to $810 million in 2016. Both years, employment costs in primary and secondary education were the top priority, accounting for about 98 percent of the total allocations, limiting other expenditures in the sector including the construction of schools and infrastructure improvement.
Teachers across the country say they are unable to foster robust learning environments because they lack basic amenities such as water and electricity, and face a shortage of teaching resources such as textbooks.
Hatcliff 3 Primary School Principal Trevor Munyaradzi Kanyongo, who started his job there in January, says he is often the one to clean up classrooms after torrential rains force students to go home.
With the help of Tim Mudambo, a member of Parliament who represents the constituency where the school is located, the school was able to purchase plastic sheeting, worn bricks and used asbestos sheets to patch holes in the roof after the latest rains.
Even with the roof temporarily patched, Kanyongo says he is still worried about the quality of the learning space they are providing for children in the area.
“The students sit on the floor, even when it rains. We have a few chairs that were donated by churches,” he says, pointing to two rows of flimsy, plastic chairs while carefully treading the muddy earth in a small classroom lit only by the sunlight.
Kanyongo says that the students use their backpacks on their laps as desks. But the bags are often empty, making it hard for them to write. The school does not have textbooks to give to the students, so teachers read out loud to students from their single textbook.
Kanyongo says he knows this slows the learning process.
Nyasha Kamukango, a temporary teacher at the school, says she is most concerned about the hygiene of students and employees because there are only two toilets and no running water.
They use water from a well at a nearby church.
The increased budget allocation was met with cautious enthusiasm here. Teachers and students at Hatcliff 3 Primary School say they hope to see infrastructure investment, but have no word on a potential time frame for improvements.