LSU steps in  to solve zero pass rate  in Matabeleland North Professor Pardon Kuipa

Nqobile Tshili, [email protected]

LUPANE State University (LSU) intervention in the education sector has helped reduce the number of schools in Matabeleland North province recording zero pass rate in the Grade Seven public examinations.

The issue of schools recording zero pass rate in the Grade Seven public examinations has been of major concern to parents and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education hence the LSU’s intervention.

In order to address the problem the ministry partnered various organisations including the LSU.

The LSU Vice Chancellor Professor Pardon Kuipa said since the university’s intervention, schools recording zero pass rate in the Grade Seven public examinations had been reduced drastically.

“When we moved in, 18 primary schools in the province had recorded zero pass rate in the Grade Seven public examinations and we managed to reduce the figure to just six,” he said.

Prof Kuipa said the objective is to reduce the figure to zero and as such the university will continue working with the ministry to capacitate both teachers and pupils.

The university’s Department of Educational Foundations is leading the process to assist both teachers and pupils to improve the pass rate.

The acting Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Dr Mbulisi Ndlovu said the department researched to understand why rural primary schools in the province were performing badly in the public examinations.

“The focus of this preliminary study was to identify reading difficulties of Grade Seven pupils and come up with remedial strategies. The intervention strategies which were instituted for a period of four years were based on results obtained from tests initially administered to randomly sampled Grade Seven pupils,” he said.

Dr Ndlovu said the research showed that 70 percent of pupils were reading at a standard below their level. 

“It was established that 30 percent of the participants were reading and spelling at Grade 7 level while 40 percent of the participants were reading at Grade 5 level. The remaining 30 percent were reading at Grade 3 and below level,” he said.

Dr Ndlovu said reading was a vehicle through which learners master concepts and it allows for independent learning. 

“It can therefore be inferred that the 70 percent of the Grade 7 pupils reading below their level have very low chances of succeeding in the public exams.”

Dr Ndlovu said since the university’s intervention in 2018, schools in the province have steadily improved their Grade Seven public exams pass rates. 

He said the university has also equipped 65 teachers to produce contextualised books and related reading materials for pupils in order to promote a reading culture.

“Through working on key reading challenges identified, schools that were in the zero bracket before the university’s intervention gradually improved starting with recording 10 percent in 2019 to 20 percent in 2022,” he said.

Dr Ndlovu said the positive development is mainly attributed to the parents who are supporting the programme.

“The school heads through their association, the National Association of Primary School Heads (Naph) are also supporting the programme,” he said.

Primary and Secondary Education director of advocacy and communication Mr Taungana Ndoro said it was encouraging to note that the number of schools recording zero pass rate has dropped drastically as a result of the various interventions by ministry’s development partners. 

“The Lupane State University in collaboration with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is running a Teacher Professional Development programme. The programme is equipping teachers with effective teaching methodologies, content knowledge and assessment strategies,” he said.

Mr Ndoro said this has helped to strengthen instructional quality in the classroom. 

He also said the university has contributed to curriculum alignment and resource development which has addressed the unique learning needs of pupils in the province.

Mr Ndoro said the university has also established learning centres and after-school programmes to provide additional academic support and mentorship to struggling pupils.

This includes targeted interventions in key subjects like Mathematics and English.

“The partnership has also focused on building the capacity of school heads and deputies to be more effective instructional leaders capable of driving school-wide improvement strategies,” said Mr Ndoro.

He said the ministry has also come up with further interventions to arrest the issue of zero pass rates including strengthening early childhood education and foundational literacy/numeracy skills.

“We are implementing more robust learner assessment systems to identify and support pupils at risk of falling behind. We are also expanding access to remedial and catch-up programmes, especially in rural and remote areas. We are also enhancing community engagement and parental support for pupils learning,” said Mr Ndoro.

He said the ministry is also addressing infrastructure, resource and teacher deployment challenges at under-performing schools. – @nqotshili.



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