WHEN Primary and Secondary Education Minister, Lazarus Dokora, is in the news, you bet he has opened his mouth yet again to say something provocative.
It looks like the man really loves the limelight and will grab it at all cost, notwithstanding the damage it inflicts on his reputation.
He just loves being controversially topical and has used teachers as his pedestal, knowing for certain that anything that concerns these tormented professionals, is sure to attract attention.
All of Dokora’s controversial policies are so divisive that they leave many wondering what exactly he is hoping to achieve.
What’s his gripe with teachers?
In his latest proposal, Dokora plans to introduce a policy which would see teachers from schools that fail to attain an average of at least 50 percent pass rate at all examination levels having their monthly salaries cut by the same percentage for three months. Oh my goodness!
The question is: With the hope of achieving what?
The explanation proffered was very pedestrian: So that teachers can work harder in order for pupils to pass.
The announcement, as reported in a recent Sunday paper, came as the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (ZIMSEC) released 2015 Advanced Level results whose overall average pass rate was 87,6 percent.
This writer is not very much conversant with personnel management, but has some knowledge of one Abraham Maslow, who coined a theory on the hierarchy of needs.
The writer recollects that at the very base are physiological needs, which refer to the physical requirements for human survival.
If these requirements are not met, the human body cannot function properly and will ultimately fail.
As such, it follows that if physiological needs are thought to be the most important, then they should be met first.
One therefore wonders, in light of this, how Dokora’s policies, which are suitable for a military battalion than a school, would improve the education system when they de-motivate teachers.
One needs to learn that there is nothing more depressing and counter-productive at any workplace in the world than the punishment of an unwarranted salary cut.
Is it not very basic knowledge that a hungrier and angrier worker is less likely to perform to satisfaction?
Any educationist worth his/her salt will dismiss these militant policies with the utmost contempt they deserve.
The same minister is presiding over what he has termed a “revolutionary curriculum shift”, which places more emphasis on improving learning resources for a better education system and yet shooting from a very different direction altogether.
New education approaches seem to suggest that emphasis should be placed more on the learner than the facilitator and it follows that Dokora should invest more of his abundant energy on sourcing resources — textbooks, laboratory equipment for science (which he appears to have a disposition for) and information and communication technologies (ICTs) that are working wonders in other African countries and are now fast overtaking us, while we rest in the old comfort of being the most educated nation on the continent.
Before him, David Coltart had made significant developments in this respect. But Dokora’a behaviour has some underlying factors.
It should be remembered that Dokora was hauled from obscurity by President Robert Mugabe after he failed to retain his Rushinga National Assembly seat in the 2013 general elections.
He in fact, fell in the ZANU-PF primary polls, but the President picked him up from being an ordinary citizen he had relapsed into, to become a Cabinet minister in September 2013.
Hardly a year later, he would be caught up in the vicious ZANU-PF factional wars after he was accused of hobnobbing with former vice president, Joice Mujuru, who was sacked for alleged plots to dethrone President Mugabe.
Throughout this turbulent period, the Minister wittingly withdrew himself from the drama and concentrated on the curriculum review process with which he managed to fool everyone into believing that he deserved more time at the helm of the Ministry.
In between he threw ploys that kept him in the limelight and firmly in favour with President Mugabe.
The problem with this tactic is that it has to be constantly recharged and Dokora seems to have perfectly understood the game. However, he can only go so far.
Below are some of the controversial policies he has introduced since his appointment:
• Banned teachers from complementing their low wages by offering holiday lessons.
• Withdrew incentives for teachers that were introduced by his predecessor, Coltart, in order to retain teaching staff.
• Proposed scrapping of teachers’ salaries for the three months they are on school holidays — April, August and December.
• Wants cameras installed in classrooms in order to monitor teachers.
• Wants sporting activities banned during the week.
• Banned holiday lessons.
• Wants to increase the number of subjects at primary level from four to nine.
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