Zimbabwe fears losing teachers to the UK

Zimbabwe fears losing teachers to the UK

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Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) (AFP) – After an exodus of nurses, Zimbabwe now faces the loss of its teachers as a new British recruitment policy threatens a fresh brain drain in the South African country, which is facing a shattered economy.

A UK government update released earlier this month lists teachers who have qualified in Zimbabwe as eligible to apply directly for “qualified status” – allowing successful candidates to go straight into classrooms without further training.

The new policy, which the UK government says will improve “opportunities for highly qualified teachers wherever they have been trained”, begins in February 2023 and will also apply to teachers qualified in Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa .

For decades, Zimbabwe’s education system was considered one of the best on the continent – one of the few achievements of former President Robert Mugabe’s regime.

Years of relentless economic decline, largely attributed to poor governance, have dulled the luster, but the country still boasts a pool of highly skilled and qualified teachers.

But like most public employees, they earn meager salaries. Some have already moved to other countries, including South Africa and Rwanda.

“This is great news,” said Nyasha, a teacher who asked to be identified by her first name only. “The conditions here are unbearable.”

In Zimbabwe, teachers can earn up to 50,000 Zimbabwean dollars (US$75) a month, a tiny fraction of what they can earn in Britain, Zimbabwe’s former colonial ruler.

Qualified teachers in England, where the cost of living is significantly higher, are paid at least £2,300 ($2,800) a month, according to the Department of Education.

But an analysis by Schools Week, a sector information source, suggested only 73 per cent of a key recruitment target for new teachers in English secondary schools would be met this year.

Some in Zimbabwe have warned that the prospect of its teachers moving to the UK threatens to topple an already shaky school system.

‘What will happen?’

“Where is this taking us as a country?” asked Obert Masaraure, the leader of a rural teachers’ union.

Zimbabwe, with a population of 15 million people, 41 percent of whom are under the age of 14, has around 150,000 teachers in more than 10,000 schools.

The government says it is at least 25,000 short of the required number.

Only 73 per cent of a key recruitment target for new teachers in English secondary schools will be met this year
Only 73 per cent of a key recruitment target for new teachers in English secondary schools will be met this year © Oli SCHAL / AFP

“If we all leave, what will happen to our own children?” asked Tafadzwa Munodawafa, who heads another educators’ union fighting for better pay.

The Department for Education declined to comment, saying the government was unaware of the UK’s recruitment policy.

To try to stem the brain drain of doctors and nurses who have boarded en masse in recent years, authorities have made it harder to obtain the necessary documentation to prove their qualifications.

But some say this misses the point.

“Government should do the right thing and prioritize getting our professionals paid well so we can stem the brain drain,” said Dr. Henry Madzorera, a former health minister and opposition official, told AFP.

The latest statistics from the Zimbabwe Health Authority show that over the year to November over 4,000 healthcare workers have resigned from public bodies – with many believed to have emigrated.

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