Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
EDUCATIONISTS have said the persistent zero pass rates being recorded in rural Matabeleland can only be addressed when schools have enough teachers, adequate learning materials, teachers who speak local languages and the required infrastructure such as classrooms and teachers’ houses.
Schools in Matabeleland North and South provinces have been consistently cited as the worst performers in public examinations at both primary and secondary school level.
In the 2019 Grade Seven results, 32 schools from the region produced zero pass rates while the other six rural provinces produced a cumulative 55.
Advanced Level and Ordinary Level results are yet to be released but fears are that schools in the region are likely to record poor results.
Concerned educationists have identified poor infrastructure, shortage of teachers and deployment of teachers who do not speak local languages as factors contributing to poor performance.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Dr Sifiso Ndlovu said deployment of ‘wrong’ teachers could adversely affect learning.
Dr Ndlovu said it was important to ensure as much as possible that teachers deployed to an area speak the local language.
He said the Zimbabwean Constitution recognises 16 official languages so pupils should be free to speak their language at school.
“In Binga for example locals speak Tonga and in Matabeleland South there are people who speak Kalanga so teachers deployed to these areas should speak these languages,” he said.
Dr Ndlovu said although English was the main language for instruction, children understand better if some concepts are explained in their mother tongue.
He said the other challenge was that most schools in Matabeleland were facing a serious shortage of teachers and this was negatively affecting learning.
“We have cases whereby teachers take more than one class and this obviously impacts negatively on learning hence the poor results,” said Dr Ndlovu.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, Matabeleland South deputy secretary general Ms Melisa Chingwanangwana concurred with Dr Ndlovu.
She said the shortage of teaching and learning materials was worse in rural schools.
“There is a shortage of textbooks, of classrooms and some of the rooms are not even fit for learning. There is serious shortage of teachers in rural areas. Sometimes learners would go for a term or even close to a year without a teacher and such pupils cannot do well in public exams,” said Ms Chingwanangwana.
She said Government should capacitate schools and ensure schools have enough teachers to avoid overworking teachers.
Primary and Secondary Education Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chairperson and MDC-T MP Ms Priscilla-Misihairabwi-Mushonga said as a committee they were concerned about poor pass rates particularly in rural schools in Matabeleland region. She said unlike other provinces that benefited from schools’ development programme in the 1980s, the region lagged behind due to Gukurahundi disturbances.
“When you go to the ground and talk to the affected people, they want Government to come up with a deliberate policy to allocate more resources for schools development to areas lagging behind like Matabeleland region,” she said.
Ms Misihairabwi-Mushonga said her committee’s demand for answers to the zero pass rates being recorded in Matabeleland prompted the Speaker of National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda to ask the Education Ministry to produce a comprehensive report detailing the issues contributing to zero pass rates in schools.
Primary and Secondary Education permanent Secretary Mrs Tumisang Thabela said the ministry was already working on the [email protected]