When Zimbabwe schools re-open Tuesday, younger scholars will find they have text books for the first time in many years. A record 13 million text books are being delivered to Zimbabwe’s primary schools.
Education minister David Coltart said the massive text-book order, a record for Zimbabwe, was made possible by donations, mainly from Scandinavian countries and Germany. The contract for printing the books was carried out in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Coltart said in 2011 he will invite tenders for text books for five core subjects in secondary schools. He says the books will be distributed in 2012.
There are more than 7,000 schools in Zimbabwe, and Coltart says many of them have dilapidated infrastructure. He praised Finance Minister Tendai Biti who awarded the education sector 34 percent of the recent national budget, the highest percentage for any sector.
Biti is a member of the Movement for Democratic Change. Coltart is a member of the smaller MDC faction. The education minister said his ministry received $469-million, with $432-million for salaries, leaving little to repair schools or provide teaching materials.
Since the inclusive government came to power nearly two years ago, Coltart said the education ministry has rehired 17,000 teachers.
Zimbabwe used to have one of the best education sectors in Africa. Last year the United Nations said Zimbabwe had a 96-percent literacy rate, a statistic questioned by Coltart.
Zimbabwe’s renowned former education minister Fay Chung says the literacy rate will only be accurately measured in a few years time and will reflect the collapse of education in the past decade. "Literacy is something that measures the past, because you are looking at people who left school four of five years ago,” Chung said. “It does not measure the exact present."
Coltart is in the United Kingdom meeting key British ministers. He said the Britain wants to assist Zimbabwe’s children, but needs reassurance that any funds donated to the education sector would not be diverted to youth militias or other organizations that promote tyranny.