Opinion Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu
Zimbabwean schools have recently opened for the 2015 second term, a formal educational period during which teachers, pupils and students are expected to interact fruitfully following the first term period when they intellectually “discover” one another.Unlike in the first term, the second term is a time of what should be unhindered communication between the teachers and their classes as they (teachers) would have identified the weaknesses and strengths of each pupil or student in the first term.
Similarly, pupils and students should have adjusted themselves accordingly to their various teachers’ voice levels, temperaments and lesson presentation methods.
Now is the time the teachers should deliver maximally after laying a good foundation last term. Those teachers who got into the field for the first time this year, during the first term, when they were finding their feet, so to speak, now have certainly found their ground by gaining self-confidence and some experience.
The second term is the time when teachers are expected to perform optimally so that the third term can be devoted more or less to revision.
Last year’s school results showed that some provinces performed wonderfully, but some most dismally.
Several reasons can be given for a school’s poor performance. One of those reasons is either poor or lack of hardware such as suitable classrooms and equipment.
It is obvious that a school where lessons are conducted under trees or on open grounds cannot produce as good results as one with comfortable classrooms.
Similarly, a school without the necessary teachers’ and children’s books is bound to have poor results. In like manner, schools where pupils or students attend lessons on empty stomachs are most likely to perform poorly.
Teachers’ poor performance is another factor that causes bad results. A teacher may perform poorly simply because he or she is not trained or professionally qualified to handle a particular subject or subjects. That is quite common with language subjects.
A teacher may fail to do well because he or she consumes drugs such as alcoholic beverages, and is seldom, if ever, sober. This is very common among some teachers, and their professional performance is greatly compromised.
Children who have to travel long distances to and from school get physically and mentally fatigued and, consequently, perform badly in their lessons.
A child’s domestic environment contributes a lot to the child’s academic performance. Parents or guardians who always quarrel or fight in the presence of their children or wards traumatise them greatly, and negatively affect their mental conditions and, hence, their performance.
Teachers can change some of these factors including the building of classrooms by the school community. A school building fund-raising formula can be worked out through the school development committee or Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA).
The acquisition of appropriate school stationery can be done through either the school bursar’s office or through the PTA. In the rural areas, chiefs or headmen should be ex-officio PTA members so they can monitor the acquisition and sale of school stationery.
We should understand, however, that heads of schools are expected to deal with their individual school needs by working closely with the local community as such communities are vital publics of each area’s educational system.
Feeding of school children on the premises is an important factor in an effectively learning process. In the early 1940s, primary school children used to carry ready-to-eat provisions to school and consume them at break time.
That practice slowly disappeared with the passage of time, and by the late 1950s it was no more. That should not have been the case since the average age of school- going children was at that time (late 1950s) much lower than in the 1940s because of the government’s age limit regulation.
Pupils should have been encouraged to take ready-to- eat provisions to school, that is to say, to continue the practice because the younger one is, the quicker one feels hungry. The reason for that is biological but we will not explain it in this advisory article.
We should, however, look at possible ways by which schools can provide some food at most or some refreshment at least to the children. The easiest way is to levy every pupil an affordable amount, say R5, monthly to buy easy-to-cook soups.
Another way of dealing with this would be to have a school plot on which to plant drought-resistant crops such as melons some of which can be cut up into slices and dried in the sun to turn them into mpale, a Shona/Kalanga special method of preserving melons in order to boil the dry slices later and consume them as makolodzwa, a highly nutritious dish.
Melons can also be eaten fresh after they have been sliced and boiled, exactly the same way we cook pumpkins. Planting of melons and or whatever other crop is much more practicable in the rural areas where schools can easily procure land for that purpose. In urban centres the levy system would be more advisable.
It is important to point out that melons can be used for cooking nhopi, a very nutritious type of sadza whose ingredients are melons and either maize or sorghum or millet mealie-meal. Nhopi is a carbohydrates-rich dish. Kwashiorkor is unknown in communities where nhopi is a regular dish, cooked either with fresh melons or with dried melon slices, mpale.
Finally, let us briefly look at the performance of a school teacher who is usually under the influence of alcoholic beverages. We all know for a certainty that there is nothing professional whatsoever about getting or being drunk at work or shortly before work.
Alcohol is a drug that destroys some of the brain cells. Again that is a certainty. It makes the consumer have delusions, that is, it creates unrealistic mental ideas about the consumer and himself or herself as well as about other people. It leads the consumer to have false courage, and to live in a false world, and make them not to wish to face their professional, parental, personal and even national responsibilities. It ruins the body by causing it to age prematurely. In short, alcohol beverages are unsuitable for the brain and the body if taken regularly.
The teaching profession was originally a vocation for sober people. It was meant to nurture the minds of the recipients of the knowledge or guidance given. It is because of this background and objective that that profession, referred to scientifically as pedagogy, was deeply respectable. Respect cannot, of course, be given to habitual drunkards, nor can the drunkards be proficient in the delivery of their professional services.
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo- based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email. [email protected]