BIKITA – Bikita West Constituency residents have raised alarm over using learners as “cheap labour” during the rainy season by some teachers at Makotore Primary School, resulting in limited learning periods.
According to one Makotore Village resident who chose to be anonymous, teachers have been using school children as cheap labour for some time now.
“During the rainy season, school learners are advised to bring hoes which they use to weed in the fields that belong to the teachers. Their participation in farming activities is not in line with the dictects of Education 5.0, but rather they are being robbed of their right to education.”
Tania Machingambi, who is a widow in Makotore Village raised an issue of misplacement of tilling equipment which they usually help the kids with for their farming activities before mentioning that as things stand, they are not able to buy replacements.
“Makotore teachers order our children to bring hoes from home for their farming activities. What worries us as parents is that the equipment is either lost or misplaced. We cannot replace the lost equipment and on the other end, the school does not cover up the loss.”
Another worried resident, Tongai Mupfuti (37) said the school has vast arable land which uses children as cheap labour and he reiterated that every farming season, teachers harvest greater yields through cheap labour from learners.
“It seems our children are in a slavery environment where they overwork and find no time to do their studies. When they dismiss home, they come exhausted incapable of doing anything except sleeping and waking up for school on the following day to do the same thing.”
Contacted for comment, school head Pauline Mhembere dismissed the claims as false allegations driven by hatred before claiming that some community members are bitter and envious of her position as a school head.
“We had previously been doing farming as a practical subject for the learners but complaints sprung up from their parents, so we stopped everything. We ceased farming last year when parents sharply complained that their equipment was being misplaced. We had a school meeting in which we tabled the issue and to date, we have not assigned children to perform any farming activities,” she said.
Mhembere condemned the claims by the community which she regarded as filthy statements that tended to drag her reputation into the mud. She further cautioned the whistleblowers to shun scalding her back.
Bikita District Schools Inspector, James Mahofa castigated the idea of heaping burdensome farming tasks on learners and treating them like slaves. He, however, noted that the dictates of Education 5.0, but not to the extent of misusing the educational rights of children.
Education 5.0 is a learning system that calls for physical and practical learning as well as the application of theoretical skills into hands-on skills. It is among the 14 pillars of National Development Strategy 1.
Contacted for a comment, the Provincial Education Director, Shylatte Mhike said; “Such situations are not advisable, I may advise the DSI to look closely into the matter so that there will be no such issues.”
Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson Taungana Ndoro said our educational system does not call for abuse of learners but rather calls for the application of theoretical information into practical learning.
“Our education system does not call for abuse of learners but rather advocates for the application of theoretical information into practical learning so that pupils know how agriculture is exercised.
“Such acts of using children as cheap labour are out of the boundaries of education 5.0. Learners should be safe and protected and I encourage community members from different schools to report any wrongful doing by the surrounding schools so that we deal with such issues.”