By Pretty Chavango
Bulawayo South legislator Eddie Cross says government has the responsibility to provide financial resources and supporting infrustructre for Early Child Development (ECD) adding that passing the burden to parents will be a mockery of the country’s commitment to providing free primary education.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa in his proposed 2018 national budget revealed that government has no money to employ more teachers for ECD and that instead parents and school have to take care of the bill.
Presenting the Finance Committee Report to the 2018 Finance Bill in the National Assembly, Honourable Cross said it was unacceptable for government to come up with a policy and not support it with the necessary financial support.
“When the Government announced that they were going to extend compulsory primary school education by two years to include the ECD children, what they were doing is they were bringing something like 600 000 to 700 000 children into the school system. We needed 16 000 new classrooms. We needed goodness knows how many more teachers, 20 to 25 000.
“When you make a policy decision like this, to extend the education system for primary schools downwards by two years, you must provide for the changes financially, and to expect parents to pick up the tab for teachers, classrooms, school books and everything else makes a complete mockery of our commitment of free primary school education,”he said.
The dicision to stop hiring more ECD teachers by government will affect mostly children from poor backgrounds whose parents cannot afford to pay the extra costs to hire the required teachers.
Analysts say this move might results in many children dropping out of ECD owing to fiancial challenges as most people in the country are not employed.
Government currently has a receuitment freeze dating back to the time of the Inclusive Government in a bid to curb sky-rocketing employment costs that have seen most of the budget revenue going towards civil servants salaries leaving little for capital projects.
Honourable Cross added that despite the circustance in the economy, government ensure provision of teachers and supporting infrastructure if ECD classes are to take place.
“If the Minister of Education is going to be required to provide two years of ECD education to all the primary school children in this country, we must provide the teachers and we must provide the necessary supporting infrastructure – no question”.