What is School Improvement Grant (SIG)?

The School Improvement Grant (SIG) is a programme aimed at providing financially constrained schools with resources to address their most basic needs and meet a set of school functionality standards. The programme prioritizes funding to the schools serving the poorest communities and with the poorest levels of resource.


What is the purpose of SIG?

The immediate purpose is to provide adequate and well targeted levels of funding to financially constrained schools to cover non-personnel and non-capital resource demands in the school which will enable it to meet a minimum set of school functionality standards.


How are schools selected?

The Education Development Fund (EDF) Steering Committee (SC) agree on a criterion for selection of schools and the allocation of amounts. Criterion for selection is also based on the budget available for SIG for that year. Upon agreement of criterion, Education Management Information System (EMIS) data is used to select the schools and the lists are shared with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) Provincial and Districts offices for final confirmation and informing the schools to submit their requests and other requisite documents.


How are the funds send to schools?

Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) Head Office captures the schools targeted for SIG and prepares a pay sheet. Upon verification checks, the pay sheet is encrypted and only to be decrypted by UNICEF Finance Department. The pay sheet is then processed after further checks and money is sent directly into school accounts.


How is SIG Implemented by schools?

An up to date School Development Plan together with SIG utilization/ selection criteria are used to guide implementation of SIG. Expenditure should be in line with the eligible items listed in the utilization criteria. For any activity of the School Development Plan (SDP) to be funded by SIG, it must be part of the eligible item, which is shared by MoPSE. Failure to abide to this eligibility criteria will lead to nonpayment of future grants to the school. SIG Operations manual which stipulates all the processes including the roles of each Ministry level together with the Financial Management Manual are distributed to schools and these should be used for day to day running of SIG programme.


What is the utilization/selection criterion?

It is a document which outlines the eligible and ineligible items for the SIG funds. Each year, MoPSE together with UNICEF and donors review the utilization criteria considering findings from SIG monitoring and verification exercises as well as the prevailing economic situation, and available resources, and make the selection of schools based on these criteria. Any activity outside of the agreed SDP can still be included within the confines of the utilization criterion but will have to be approved by the District School Inspectorate (DSI) and should be documented. Each school receiving SIG should have a copy of the utilization criteria.


What is performance reward which was introduced in 2019?

The performance reward is an incentive to encourage schools to perform better and increase their retention rate. An additional amount to the tune of USD $500 is given to schools with:

  • Retention rate up to Grade 7 above 75% for primary schools; and
  • Retention rate up to Form 4 above 75% for secondary satellite schools

This information is gathered from the Education Management Information System (EMIS).  Funds allocated based on performance criteria will have to be reported together with the other regular SIG allocation and used as per the utilization criteria.


Why are schools not allowed to use cash for spending the SIG funds?

The SIG programme has a stringent policy of NO CASH transaction, this is a control measure. Schools are required to procure goods and services by means of bank transfer (RTGS- Real Time Gross Settlement). Payment is to be made after delivery of goods or services.


Why should schools need to maintain cashbooks even if they no longer receive SIG fund?

All beneficiary SIG schools are mandated to maintain cash books with proper recording of payments, description of payments and cash balances so that they can be produced for audit purpose and counter checking during verification and accounting.


Why do special schools receive much more that the ordinary schools?

Special schools cater for children with special needs and they have more demands than the other children in the mainstream schools. In addition, their provisions such as braille machines, software, wheel chairs among others are more expensive compared to the provisions of the other children.


Is the SDC part of School Improvement Grants Programme?

Yes. The SDC chairperson is required to countersign the UNICEF Funding Authorization and Certificate of Expenditure (FACE) form requesting and reporting SIG activities to show that they are involved since SIG is part of the funds at school level.


Why did the SIG eligibility criteria for 2019 remove construction and rehabilitation of school buildings for the satellite schools and registered P3 schools?

Due to the economic situation in the country, the EDF SC decided to temporarily remove construction and rehabilitation of school buildings for satellite and registered P3 schools in 2019 because it is a high-risk area and likely not to give value for money. However minor repair such as fixing broken items like windows, ceilings, ramps, paths, rails and other structures to support the mainstreaming of special needs pupils in schools can be done.


Why is the school head not allowed to furnish her/his office using SIG, especially in the disadvantaged schools?

SIG funds are disbursed to financially constrained schools to help them reach a set of minimum functionality standards. Allowing school heads to use the grant and furnish their office rooms will not benefit the learners.


Why are there specific timelines for schools to utilize their SIG grant?

SIG follows UNICEF’s Harmonized Approach to Cash Assistance (HACT) guidelines, which requires set timelines to spend and report on funds disbursed, hence the need for schools to expend the money within 3 months and report on usage. This will also allow the learners to start benefitting from the SIG funds right away.


Why are labour costs and payment of technical support excluded?

Payment of labour charges and technical support have been excluded from the eligible item list as it is difficult to account for it, and the cost varies. Schools are encouraged to contribute to the construction projects through paying for labour and encouraging their communities to provide locally available resources.


Why is it important for districts to communicate to the schools within a week of receiving the SIG money?

District offices are to communicate with the respective schools on receiving the SIG grant in the bank account so that the schools can plan on the utilization of the grant as soon as possible.


The Performance Lag Address Programme (PLAP)


The Performance Lag Address Programme (PLAP) is one of the strategies by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to achieve quality learning outcomes. PLAP is a catch-up programme which focuses on addressing learning gaps of learners from Grades 3-7 in primary schools by improving teachers’ capacities to provide catch-up learning.

Aim & Goal

The aim of the programme is to empower the teacher in assisting individual learners who are not coping with the demands of their present grade. The ultimate goal is to improve the performance of the learner experiencing learning achievements gaps so that he/she catches up with the requirements of that particular grade. The PLAP approach is not an isolated intervention strategy, but should be complementary to any other techniques that are already in use as it is one of the varied learners centred teaching methods the teacher employs in everyday teaching.


The objective of PLAP is to reduce the learning achievement gaps of learners from Grades 3-7 by supporting the implementation of PLAP activities at school and cluster levels.


While many factors have been cited, the need to strengthen reading and numeracy has been emphasized. This is the main focus of the PLAP. Of concern to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, parents, learners and other stakeholders is the pattern of schools in which all Grade 7 candidates fail all four subjects. Analysis has shown that the pass rate at Grade 7 public examination that is administered at the end of primary schooling, some learners move to secondary school with inadequate reading and mathematical concepts.

Implementing Arrangement for PLAP

The Better Schools Programme (BPSZ) was initiated in 1996 as a strategy to improve the quality of teaching and learning through continuous in-service training for teachers as well as the pooling of resources for all schools. The BSPZ is aimed at improving quality and relevance of the education system in all districts.

The BPSZ objectives include:

  • To improve the capacity of the teaching force through on-going formal and non-formal in service training ;
  • Training of teachers at District and Cluster levels on different aspects of the curriculum;
  • Coordinating all cluster in the district;
  • Coming up with teachers made tests which are administered to all schools in the district;
  • Enhancing standardisation of education content delivered in the District;
  • Creating a research base that will guide policy and educational practice;
  • Improving quality and relevance of the educational system.

The BPSZ has an elaborate coordination structure which ultimately links all schools through District Education Offices. Using the BPSZ systems, the Ministry easily mainstreams and education programme including PLAP. BPSZ is implemented through a cluster system for the coordination of in-service training activities among schools in every district. The heads of schools in the cluster in liaison with the cluster resources teacher carry out training activities. The cluster identifies their own needs and arranges workshops.

Roles and Responsibilities of the Ministry Personnel in PLAP

School Head

School Heads are critical in ensuring the success of the PLAP. They provide the resources such as syllabuses, teaching and learning aids. The heads supervise and monitor effectiveness of teaching strategies in compliance with syllabus objectives. The heads advise parents from time to time on the success of PLAP and are the link between the school and the community in all areas of the school curriculum including PLAP.

District Inspectorate – District Education Officer

The District Inspectorate headed by the District Education Officer (DEO) checks on the compliance with PLAP. The DEO has the overall responsibility for cluster activities at District levels and works hand in hand with the BSPZ cluster team which includes an education inspector and a cluster resources teacher. The inspectorate monitors the results trend in schools and PLAP activities at district and cluster levels.

Provincial Education Director

At the Provincial level, the Provincial Education Director is the overall PLAP supervisor being assisted by the Deputy Provincial Education Director Junior Education who initiates training programmes for teachers in the Province and collates PLAP reports from all districts for Head office.


Parents also play a positive role in the implementation of PLAP. They monitor progress of their children’s homework, support their children’s learning.

Address Programme Addressing Special Education Needs At Infant And Education Levels In Literacy And Supplement To The Early Reading

The Early Learning Initiative

The Early Reading Initiative (ERI) in Zimbabwe strengthens the skills of infant class teachers and supervisors from Early Child Development Year 1 to Grade2. It improves teaching, supervision and assessment of learners’ reading and writing skills.

As a result, it helps to increase the chances of learners for all-round academic achievement. Reading forms the basis of all areas of learning. It is an essential skill for success in school and in life and impacts learner performance in all subjects in later years.

It is therefore important that ECD teachers ensure that learners are engaged in early reading activities as early as possible. This can be done by developing their pre-writing and pre-reading skills which lay a strong literacy foundation.

The initiative benefits learners by:

  • Expanding their vocabulary and writing skills;
  • Contributing to their social and emotional development;
  • Increasing their attention spans and retention of information in school;
  • Enhancing their imaginative and critical thinking skills;
  • Developing a sense of closeness and intimacy between parents and the school;
  • Enhancing memory and higher levels of concentration; and
  • Motivating them to read and develop a reading culture that will enhance their literacy and numeracy skills.

ERI is implemented in all primary schools and ECD centres in Zimbabwe. Its activities support infant class teachers in the teaching of early reading. Teachers have been trained on new modules and accompanying materials for early reading.

School Improvement Grant Programme (SIG)

The School Improvement Grant Programme supported by Education Development Fund (EDF) aims at providing financially constrained schools with resources to address their most basic needs and meet a set of school functionality criteria with the aim of improving the quality of teaching and learning at the school level and reducing user fee costs for vulnerable students. This enables targeted needy schools to at least meet a minimum set of school functionality criteria. The programme prioritizes funding to the schools serving the poorest communities and with the poorest levels of resource.

Why SIG?

Following the procurement and delivery of teaching and learning materials to all schools in 2012 under Education Transition Fund (ETF), it was found necessary to support schools to implement a programme that would increase enrolment at these schools. SIG supports the retention of the children through the primary and secondary school learning cycles and enriches the learning environment with the ultimate aim of increasing the quality of learning outcomes. Furthermore, with the bottom up financing where parents are providing the bulk of funding for schools’ operating costs (excluding salaries), through school fees and levies, SIG was established to cushion parents from disadvantaged communities and reduce user fee costs for vulnerable students. This enables targeted needy schools to at least meet a minimum set of school functionality criteria.The envisaged end outcome of adequate levels of school grant funding should therefore be:

  • Affordable fees or levies;
  • Appropriate learning environment;
  • Pupils prepared for learning;
  • Improved educational attainment; and
  • Schools running effectively.

Aim of SIG

The School Improvement Grants (SIG) Programme aims at making operational a national school grants programme which will provide financially constrained schools with enough resources to address their most basic needs and meet a minimum set of school functionality criteria with the aim of improving the quality of teaching and learning at the school level and eliminating user fee costs for vulnerable students. In addition, by investing resources at the school level it is hoped that a ‘whole school approach’ will be strengthened encompassing issues related to teaching and learning and community involvement in the school. A ‘whole school approach’ entails that the community, school authorities and children will assess the key challenges and barriers to school effectiveness and develop a School Development Plan (SDP) to prioritise problem areas, set out solutions to the problems and strategies to realise those changes.

The SDP may include issues such as ensuring access to quality education to pupils coming from the most marginalised households and to those with special education needs. The plan may also focus on the improvement of quality of teaching in classrooms, materials provision (core and non-core teaching and learning materials), improvement of school facilities and effective school resource management. These are broadly:

  • Teaching and learning materials;
  • Classroom furniture;
  • Special needs provision (improved access and security for children with disabilities);
  • School running costs;
  • Water and Sanitation;
  • School infrastructure construction and rehabilitation; and
  • Income generating activities to support school.