BULAWAYO – Government has made a U-turn on its plans to close 40 schools in Matabeleland South, stating that the region actually needs 2 056 more schools instead.
This comes as Primary and Secondary Education ministry secretary Sylvia Utete-Masango recently torched a storm after announcing plans to shut 40 schools in the province, citing low pupil enrolment.
This attracted the ire of many education sector stakeholders, with teacher organisations threatening to stage massive demos in protest to the move.
Following the outrage, Utete-Masango, accompanied by Education ministry officials and teacher unions, has been touring Matabeleland South since the beginning of the week in a bid to ascertain the true status of the situation in the province.
“I am in Mat South now…and I have commissioned a new school,” Utete Masango told journalists after officially opening Valukhalo Secondary School (Valukhalo) in Empandeni in Plumtree on Wednesday.
Utete-Masango further noted that from her tour, it emerged that the province had a shortfall of over 2 000 schools.
“That is the thrust of the ministry. I did indicate we still have a deficit of schools in the region of 2 056, and we could say because of this new school we can safely say the shortfall is now 2055, because this school is a plus,” she said.
The permanent secretary even donated science laboratory furniture worth $8 100 to Valukhalo.
The school was launched in May 2013 and students were holding lessons under trees.
After government announced plans to shut the schools, teachers warned they would stage a crippling strike, if authorities went ahead.
Various teachers’ representatives told the Daily News that they had already put in motion the process of mobilising their members, civic groups and community leaders to confront the government over the school closure debacle.
A fuming Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary general, Raymond Majongwe, did not mince his words, saying “the response from various groups is overwhelming because we are all agreed that we must speak with one voice to pressure authorities”.
“Several CSOs (civil society organisations) and activists are willing to join the communities that are being punished by government for being located away from schools.
“The policy is that an examination centre can be established where six people have registered…yet here we are talking about 100 or more pupils who will be disadvantaged by the plans at some schools,” Majongwe argued.