Currently, the retirement age is pegged at 65.
A new five-year economic blueprint, the Medium Term Plan (MTP), indicates that the education sector is in distress and needs urgent revival.
Part of the policy measures to save the sector from collapse includes the scaling up of retirement age for lecturers.
The MTP reads: “Move the retirement age of lecturers to 70 years and involve retired lecturers on a flexi-time basis whenever they are required.”
Education is one of the sectors greatly affected by the brain drain as qualified personal have migrated to neighbouring countries in pursuit of greener pastures.
According to MTP, as of May last year the University of Zimbabwe had an establishment of 1 171 but only 385 posts were occupied leaving 786 vacancies while National University Of Science and Technology had a staff complement of 232 against 493 required.
Bindura, Lupane, Great Zimbabwe, Midlands State University and Harare Institute of Technology had a combined shortfall of 615 lecturers.
All polytechnics countrywide had a combined workforce of 1 043 workers against a requirement of 2 630 while teachers colleges had 803 staff but 1 348 where needed.
Apart from workers migrating, the document also attributes staff shortages to high HIV and Aids prevalence, deteriorating educational infrastructure and equipment at institutions, prohibitive distances, especially in newly resettled areas coupled with poor remuneration and working conditions.
Government has also set ambitious targets to be achieved by 2015.
It plans to “reduce teacher-pupil ratio at primary schools from 1:35 to 1:28 by 2015, reduce textbook-pupil ratio at primary school from 1:8 to 1:1 by 2015 and increase literacy rate from 88,4% to 98% by 2015.”
Education minister David Coltart last year appealed to the private sector to partner the inclusive government in its efforts to revive the sector as there was a shocking shortage of study materials, with some schools only equipped with one textbook per class in any given subject.
He revealed that at rural schools the ratio of students sharing textbooks is 1:30 while in urban areas it is mostly 1:15. Under the 2010 national budget, education was allocated $13,8 million for teaching materials, $28,15 million for cooperating partners (to be administered by Unicef), and $1,32 million for vehicles for education inspectors.
Parliament’s Education, Sports and Culture Portfolio Committee last December submitted a report expressing concern on the budget allocation saying “the amount allocated to the Education ministry falls far too short of the minimum required to enable the ministry to discharge its mandate at the most basic level”.
Government is also worried with the high rate of females dropping out of school.
“In 2006 a total of 30 359 primary school pupils dropped out of school while at secondary school a total of 21 190 dropped out of school of whom 51% were female” the committee says.