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Ethnic card not to blame for poor school results in Matebeleland

12 Mar 2019 at 05:55hrs | Views
The recent recruitment of 1 300 teachers, by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, with the bulk of them being deployed to Matabeleland provinces, is a stride in the right direction.

With the national teacher shortfall at 18 000, which has seen the teacher-pupil ratio deteriorating to 1:165 in some cases, against the recommended 1:30 ratio, the recruitment may appear to be a drop in the ocean, but the fact that it has come at a time the Government is keen on tightening the purse strings, is an indication of the seriousness with which authorities take the education issue.

There has been an outcry that some provinces, such as Matabeleland North, for example, have become perennial hotbeds due to dismal pass rates in public examinations at Grade Seven and Ordinary Level year in, year out, due mainly to lack of adequately trained teachers.

However, the issue of poor results is not only prevalent in Matabeleland provinces. It is a national challenge. Whereas there is no holistic approach in the quest to drop good results into parents' laps, and position the nation state for prosperity through total development of the individual, need arises for analysis of matrixes at play in the education conundrum.

The ethnical card has been thrown about in the quest to find solutions to the deteriorating pass rates in Matabeleland provinces, a situation that prompts probing through projection of figures. In the 2018 Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) Grade Seven examinations, 29 schools in Matabeleland North recorded zero percent pass rate.

The same number of primary schools scored a zero percent pass rate in 2017 in the same province. Yes, no single candidate passed Grade Seven in 29 schools in Matabeleland North, two years in a row, and none in those schools could qualify for secondary school if regulations were silent on the issue.

If they so decide to go to secondary school without Grade Seven passes, as most will certainly do, it would be tempting fate a notch too high to expect them to sail through with at least five O-Level passes after four years of having to battle the same conditions that could have overwhelmed them for seven years in primary school.

The province has a total of 600 primary schools, and 563 of them had candidates sitting the Grade Seven examinations, and of the 563 schools, 29 (5,2 percent) scored zero percent pass rate. Before looking at the possible reasons for the poor showing in Matabeleland North schools, it is imperative here to draw comparisons with other provinces to determine whether the ethnical card is such an issue. In Mashonaland West there are 429 satellite schools — 232 primary and 197 secondary.

Reportedly, in the 2018 national examinations 13 satellite primary schools scored zero percent pass rate in the province. In the Matabeleland North scenario, the poor showing, according to officials, is attributable to teacher shortages and lack of teaching materials since most of the schools were new and small, with a staff complement of three teachers teaching across grades, hence, the need to acquaint the teachers with necessary skills.

In the Mashonaland West case, satellite schools do not fall into the category of small schools as some are said to have enrolments of over 1 000 learners. Poor results are attributed to resource constraints, which include shortage of trained teachers. In 2014 Bulawayo Province scored the highest overall pass rates in Grade Seven and O-Level national examinations, while posting exceptional results at A-Level, with Masvingo coming second, Matabeleland South third, and Harare on fourth position. Matabeleland North was on eighth position ahead of Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central on ninth and tenth position, respectively.

After dominating in Grade Seven examinations results three years in a row between 2012 and 2014, and doing exceptionally well in both O-Level and A-Level, Bulawayo slumped to the bottom in 2015 and eighth in 2016. Matabeleland South came sixth in the Grade Seven examinations in 2018.

That the reason for failure is attributable to non-Ndebele and non-Tonga speaking teachers in Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South fails to hold water when scrutinised on the background of the good results obtained in Bulawayo at Grade Seven, O-Level and A-Level, before slumping between 2015 and 2018.

Both Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South recorded better overall results ahead of Mashonaland West and South provinces before 2017, and Matabeleland South maintains its dominance over the provinces. Harare Province could be leading throughout if infrastructure, ethnical balance and teacher deployment were the only factors determining pass rates.

Though it is important in early development, up to Grade Three that vernacular language is used to hone the cognitive skills of learners, it cannot be an issue after Grade Five and in secondary school.

If teachers are adequately trained, have the right mindset, are well remunerated and adopt the attitude expected of the profession, the issue of the so-called language barrier falls away. In Matabeleland North, which is said to have inadequate Tonga speaking teachers, 139 pupils out of the 3 980, who sat the Tonga Grade Seven exam, scored distinctions, translating to 67,24 percent pass rate. Comparatively of 51 pupils who wrote the Shona examination, four passed with distinctions, with a pass rate of 92,28 percent.

A pass rate of 62,24 percent could not have been achieved had the issue been to do with native speakers of Tonga as teachers. The challenge only comes if teachers are to cross grades, especially if they are poorly resourced and inadequately trained. Government can tackle the problem thorough encouraging would be teachers to enrol for training in Ndebele, Shona, Venda, Tonga etc. at tertiary institutions, if current numbers are anything to go by. Due to lack of attractive infrastructure, rural schools have been shunned by teachers for some time, regardless of province. Now that there are close to 17 000 trained teachers awaiting employment, the luxury to choose may be a thing of the past. What is required now is for those employed or offered employment to step up to the plate and perform, and the infrastructure in such areas to be improved.

Parents, learners and teachers should be on the same plate with regards to the new curriculum and its expectations. There is a worrisome lack of information on the new curriculum, compounded by scarcity of learning materials. If parents are of the belief that their children fail because of teachers from other regions, who are non-speakers of their mother tongue, they aid in raising the affective filter of learning in their children, thus impeding the learning process. As an interactive process, learning is thrives in a conducive environment, which begins with accepting each other as Zimbabweans first.

The temptation to hire or recruit those from our provinces, on the part of those in positions of influence, should be subdued, for the tendency is to engage non-competent teachers on the basis of their being speakers of the vernacular language in particular provinces, ahead of competent non-speakers of said languages. If this is allowed to happen then the same problem of dismal pass rates will remain to haunt us all, and create cry-babies out of our children. Learning also prevails if both learners and teachers do not think with their stomachs.

The recruitment of the 1 300 teachers to complement Government efforts, therefore, should be applauded, especially so when 300 of them will take their posts in Matabeleland North, and 242 will be in Matabeleland South. Imparting education is more than teaching, neither is passive learning enough in developing the complete individual. Instead, effective learning involves both cognitive and psychomotor skills made to interact through a shared vision.

Source - chronicle
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