• August 10th, 2020

Lessons from a teacher training programme that transformed education in Zim

It is a fact that Zimbabwe has one of the best education systems in Africa, a solid education system that has produced professionals in almost every discipline. 

There is ample evidence, which shows that most of these highly educated and skilled Zimbabweans are contributing to the development of economies in the diaspora. 

While people talk of the strong education system that Zimbabwe has, what is not often known is how within the shortest period of time after independence, the new government successfully transformed the education system in that country starting at primary school level. As someone, who witnessed the phenomenal growth of this quality education, I feel I am qualified to inform the readers about where it all began. At the attainment of independence in 1980, the new Zimbabwean government inherited an unequal education system, which favoured white children in all respects and disadvantaged the majority black children. While the racist colonial regime had built good schools equipped with the best educational facilities for all white children over the years, it had constructed a few government schools, which fell far from satisfying the education demands of black children. 

Although mission schools tried to assist by offering education to black children, they could not reach to all the black children who required primary and secondary education.  The bottleneck system that the colonial regime used to frustrate the ambitions of black people in education worsened the plight of black children. As a result, thousands of blacks were left without education.  It was a pathetic situation. Therefore, it was reasonable for the black government to proclaim that all children of schoolgoing age should go to school for free after independence - compulsory and free education at primary school level. 
After all, segregation in education had been one of the reasons why black people had taken arms against the colonial regime. 

So, it was not only prudent but also logical for the new government to allow the hitherto disadvantaged black people to benefit from the fruits of independence.  New schools were built in both rural and urban areas.  The compulsory and free education therefore came with a heavy price on that part of the government.  This expansion in the education of the previously disadvantaged black children meant that there was need to provide the schools with qualified teachers.  There was an acute shortage of qualified teachers and the government could not provide these teachers.  In fact, most schools were manned by untrained teachers, the majority who did not possess the basic secondary school education of “Ordinary” Level. Some of the untrained teachers had gone as far as Standard 5 or 6. In order to address the critical shortage of primary school teachers, the government launched the Zimbabwe Integrated Teacher Education Course (Zintec), a model of teacher training that revolutionised education in the country. 

After an intensive period of 16 weeks of residential learning at four colleges that were established for this programme, Zintec student teachers were deployed to take full charge of classes in primary schools. 
Since they were employed full time, the Zintec students received a monthly salary. 

In the meantime, the student teachers worked on their assignments from different courses they were enrolled in for a period of four years before graduating with a Certificate in Education from the Department of Teacher Education at the University of Zimbabwe. Local supervisory teams comprising experienced heads of schools assisted by supervising the progress of student teachers. 

Lecturers from the four colleges also assessed the student teachers as a way of quality assurance. As an in-service training course, the Zintec programme afforded student teachers the chance of learning by doing, that is, the students combined theory and practice. 

They covered pedagogical content in psychology of education, sociology of education, philosophy of education, research, and theories of education, including taking a main subject. Teaching practice for this breed of student teachers was a daily affair as they taught full classes every day. 

With three intakes per year, the Zintec teacher education programme churned out thousands of teachers that built a strong primary school education for black people, laying a solid foundation for secondary and tertiary levels in Zimbabwe. In short, the success of the Zintec programme was that it filled the gap of the shortage of teachers at primary school level within a short time.  The teacher training programme became so popular that some student teachers who were enrolled in conventional teacher training colleges deregistered and enrolled with Zintec colleges. As a result, all conventional colleges abandoned their strict three-year full-time programmes, with minimal teaching practice, and modelled their training programmes somewhat alongside the Zintec programme.  

From the three years it took conventional college students to train as teachers, one year was now spent on teaching practice at schools with a stipend.  The Zintec programme has been hailed by researchers as one of the most successful in-service teacher training courses that have been mounted in Southern Africa and Africa as a whole.  It was through the expansion of the education system at primary school level that enabled Zimbabwe to produce skilled professionals in several fields, the surplus of whom have migrated to other countries. 

Although it had its own challenges, like any programme launched just after independence, research proves that the Zintec teacher education programme served the country and the region well. I recommend that countries, which have problems of shortages of trained teachers, take a leaf from the Zintec programme. 
There are many lessons to learn from this in-service teacher training programme.

*Professor Jairos Kangira is the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Namibia. He writes on his own accord. Email address: kjairos@gmail.com

Staff Reporter
2019-10-25 08:09:53 | 9 months ago

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