Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Plumtree Correspondent
THIRTY-ONE percent of pupils in Matabeleland South Province who completed Grade Seven last year dropped out of school due to various reasons, an official has said.
Matabeleland South Provincial Education Director, Mrs Tumisang Thabela, said long distances to schools, failure to pay school fees, teenage pregnancies among other reasons had caused pupils to drop out of school.
“In 2015 the province had 20 342 Grade Seven pupils and only 12 776 managed to enrol for Form One. This gives us a transition rate of 69 percent which is a slight improvement from the previous year’s 67,4 percent,” she said.
“However we should ask ourselves what has happened to the 31 percent learners who did not proceed to Form 1. What exit skills had they gained from our education system by the time they reached Grade Seven to assure them of sustainable livelihoods.”
Presenting a report on the state of the education sector, Mrs Thabela said the province had a shortfall of 1 552 teachers at ECD level, 369 at primary school level and 86 at secondary school level.
She said most were science subjects teachers.
Mrs Thabela said the province was also faced with a shortfall of 245 headmasters at primary and secondary level and there was also a deficit of 108 deputy heads.
“We have a huge deficit of teachers and headmasters in our schools. Some of the children in our schools go through the year without coming in contact with qualified teachers.
“Some of our secondary pupils especially rural day schools don’t have access to equipment for science, practical, technical and vocational subjects. This makes pupils ill prepared when it comes to exam time,” she said.
Mrs Thabela said most secondary schools offer a partial curriculum which excludes natural sciences, technical and vocational subjects.
She urged schools faced with such challenges to organise holiday camps for pupils to cover up for time lost during the course of the term.
Mrs Thabela appealed to stakeholders to assist by funding holiday camps to ensure that rural pupils were not deprived of quality education.
“Despite challenges in learning equipment and staffing, our results over the past three years continue to improve as they have been on the increase.
However, at Grade Seven level, we have not reached the expected national target of 58 percent.
“We also have cases of non-readers at upper grades in our primary schools. In order to address this we will fully utilise the early reading initiative programme to ensure that all learners are able to read at Grade Three level,” she said.