The Zimbabwean education system, formerly one of Africa's best, is laboring under some 15,000 vacant teacher positions left unfilled due to emigration, political intimidation of teachers and reluctance by new graduates to enter the profession.
The Ministry of Education said vacancies are increasing despite a government program welcoming back teachers who left the country at the height of the political crisis.
Sibonginkosi Mutasa, human resources principal director in the Education Ministry, said the shortage of teachers has had a negative impact on student pass rates.
He said that of 111,000 teaching posts, 96,000 are filled by qualified teachers with the remaining 15,000 still vacant as even uncertified teachers reject job offers.
Deputy Education Minister Lazarus Dokora attributed the shortage of teachers to brain drain, adding that teachers colleges are failing to produce enough graduates.
"The sector is in dire need of qualified teachers," Dokora told the state-controlled Herald newspaper. "The optimistic view that some teachers would come back has no relationship to reality, rendering the amnesty useless," Dokora said.
"New graduates are leaving for foreign lands and others are joining other sectors. The number of graduates is too low compared to pupils starting school."
Education Minister David Coltart told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that the lack of respect for teachers in Zimbabwe, poor housing especially at rural schools and political intimidation of teachers have all contributed to high vacancies.
Philip Rudanda, president of the National Association for Primary School Heads, says rural schools are worst hit by teacher shortages.
Unqualified teachers, consequently, are being assigned to secondary school classes, teaching up to four subjects whether or not they are qualified in them.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe President Takavafira Zhou said the government estimate of 15,000 vacancies is too low.