Recent Factors affecting Education in Zimbabwe

Access to a quality education
Despite the initiative during independence to rapidly expand education opportunities, the demand for education was still greater than the supply. Education quality was hindered by teacher shortages, infrastructural pressure and economic crisis in the past decade. UNICEF claims that only a third of schools are considered to be in "good condition." Schools also face capacity challenges, including double session schooling, or "hot seating," and overcrowded classrooms. "Hot seating" means that half of students attend school in the morning and the second half attends school in the afternoon. These methods enable more students to attend school, but quality declines because students are given less attention and time to learn.

Quality of education is also impacted by the lack of trained teachers in secondary schools. A majority of teaching colleges in Zimbabwe are for primary education training, leaving less opportunity to meet the demand of trained secondary school teachers. Teacher shortages surge is rural areas more than urban areas due to unfavorable working conditions and low compensation. Many teachers in rural areas lack training due to the high demand for labor and less concern for quality. Not only are teachers under compensated, but teaching materials are also allocated less than one percent of the federal budget for education.

Zimbabwe's education reform in 1980 aspired to provide free and universal education to all children through the Zimbabwe Education Act; however, tuition fees and education costs have accumulated over time. Many families pay for tuition, even if it is a small fee at public government schools. Families that do not pay for tuition due to education subsidies are still required to pay additional fees including building fees, transportation costs, exam fees, uniforms and stationary for their children. Education is not completely free in Zimbabwe due to historical government expenditures focusing on infrastructure for education and recent years of global economic crisis. Programs like the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) have developed to prevent orphans and vulnerable children from dropping out of primary school due to the expenses. BEAM pays for tuition and other basic fees, but only serves less than half of the target population. As of 2014, only 10 percent of pupils ages 15 to 24 have not completed primary education which can be attributed to the cost of education.

Students with disabilities
It is estimated that over 300,000 school-aged children in Zimbabwe have a disability. There is a current push for inclusionary schools in order to provide quality education for students with physical and mental disabilities. Inclusionary schools involve "identification and minimization or elimination of barriers to students' participation in traditional settings (i.e., schools, homes, communities, and workplaces) and the maximization of resources to support learning and participation." Nondiscriminatory laws, including the Education Act of 1996 and the Disabled Persons Act of 1996, neither catalyze inclusive education for schools in Zimbabwe nor protect students experiencing disability from discrimination in high school.

Most schools perform "unplanned or de facto inclusion" by keeping students with disabilities in classrooms with all other students and teaching them the same curriculum without documentation of their specific disability. Teachers and schools are not equipped to educate and account for students with disabilities; therefore, most drop out by third grade. Schools are finding alternative ways of performing inclusionary education on an individual basis, but there is still a lack of standardization and quality, especially for rural schools. Researcher Regis Chireshe claims inclusionary education needs legislative and policy support, more quality inclusionary education training for teachers and inclusionary education campaigns to improve the stigma associated with people experiencing disabilities. The government has recently expanded the Schools Psychological Services and Special Needs Education Division to better serve students experiencing disabilities in school.

Gender differences
Although education is accepted as a fundamental right by the constitution, gender disparities in education still exist. Gender differences are less predominant in primary education than they are in secondary education. The United Nations Zimbabwe claims in 2009, 85 percent of females, compared to 80 percent of males, completed primary school. As of 2010, 48.8 percent of females achieved secondary education or higher, while 62 percent of males achieved secondary education or higher.

Females are increasingly more likely to drop out than their male peers in secondary school due to early marriages, cost of continuing education and gender-based violence in secondary schools. Females are considered a source of income through marriage and families are more likely to educate their sons to increase their earning potential. A lack of education for females correlates with developmental risks including adolescent pregnancy, HIV and AIDs, poor health and poverty. In times of economic hardship, resources for education are allocated to males more than females due to labor roles, social values and gender expectations. However, reports from the UN Children's Fund claim that Zimbabwe's gender gap in education is smaller than many other African countries.

Textbooks are a method to analyzing gender relations and roles in Zimbabwe's curriculum based on the research of Gudhlanga et al. Gudhlanga et al. claims that gender stereotyping is prevalent in textbooks as males are used to describe scientific or technical fields, leadership positions and jobs rather than females. The study by Gudhlanga et al. found that active and productive roles are more commonly held by males in textbooks, while female roles in textbooks are passive and dependent. In addition, the study found that English language textbooks are written from male perspectives and leave out important female leaders and perspectives in history.

Thousands of Zimbabwean teachers have gone on strikes, joined teacher unions and left the profession in recent years over low salaries, poor working conditions, political victimization and violence. Teacher unions including the Progressive Teacher's Union of Zimbabwe organize strikes to catalyze salary negotiations and better working conditions. In the first decade of the 21st century, 45,000 out of 100,000 teachers in the country left the profession.

Marked by a time period of hyperinflation, teachers were one of the lowest paid professions in the 2000s, receiving the equivalence of $10 US dollars for every three months of teaching. Their salaries in 2009 were as low as one US dollar for every month of teaching with grocery vouchers worth $100 USD per month. Thousands of teachers protested, left public education and migrated to other countries in response to the economic crisis. During a year-long strike from 2008 to 2009, teachers demanded higher salaries paid in international currency. This strike led to nearly 94 percent of all rural schools closing and school attendance rates fell from 80 percent to 20 percent.

Many teachers joined the informal economy, or black sector, during the economic crisis. They participated in cross-border trading with Botswana and South Africa because civil servants were not required to have visas at the time. Teachers would use their off time during the year to hoard goods from other country and resell them in Zimbabwe to earn a livable living that their teaching salaries did not satisfy.

In 2009, the national economy stabilized because of the actions taken by the newly established Government of National Unity (GNU). The GNU enacted the dollarization of the national economy which curved the effects of hyperinflation and the informal economy. The GNU also allocated every civil servant, including teachers, the equivalent of $100 US dollars. Teachers were encouraged to reenter the profession and move back to Zimbabwe, but thousands never returned and found higher paying positions elsewhere.

Today, the United Nations of Zimbabwe claims that thousands of teachers are unmotivated due to low salaries, limited resources, pressure, political harassment and the shortage of teachers. Researchers Regis Chireshe and Almon Shumba assert that teachers believe their teacher training did not prepare them for the classroom or to teach special education. The researchers also believe that teachers will continue to threaten or actually strike in the future unless their needs are better addressed by the government.

In 2009, the Educational Transition Fund (ETF) was launched to improve the quality of education by distributing education materials. The ETF partnered with UNICEF and encouraged private donations. Accumulation and distribution of textbooks has been the focus of ETF in recent years. In 2008, The National Education Advisory Board states that 20 percent of students did not have textbooks for core subjects and the student to textbook ratio was 10:1. Thousands of textbooks have been donated in the past few years along with additional learning materials. UNICEF currently reports that the student to textbook ratio is now 1:1 because of international aid from the ETF.