Mthabisi Tshuma, Showbiz Correspondent
A SHOCKING tale came out last Friday when it was revealed that the national Grade 7 pass rate had declined from 52,08 percent in 2018 to 46,9 percent this year. This was a saddening development after the 2018 pass rate increased by 7,35 percent to 52,08 percent from the 2017 national pass rate of 44, 73 percent.
As worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, but only saps today of its joy, the 2019 Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) Grade 7 results decline this year is salt added to the injury which are the difficulties that many are facing in the country.
Questions have arisen as to what exactly is going on in the education sector which has led to the Grade Seven results dropping. Is it the pupil’s attitude? Is it the teacher’s attitude? Is it the Ministry’s learning implementation strategy? Is it the current economic situation? A lot of questions need to be addressed.
Saturday Leisure, in a bid to address the speculations around the pass rate, interacted with pupils, parents, teachers and educationists to have a better understanding of the education system.
What has raised alarm, but seems to be swept under the carpet, is the fact that for the past month, teachers are reportedly reporting for duty twice a week and little or nothing is being done about it. Most affected in such cases are pupils and devastating consequences have led to some dropping out of school, venturing into prostitution, becoming thieves and even committing suicide.
Commenting on the pass rate decline, some educationists have attributed this development to a shortage of books in schools leaving the pupils wanting in terms of the academic information they possess.
Many schools, mostly those in rural areas, have managed to deal with the problem through funding from the United Nations Children’s Education Fund’s (Unicef) School’s Improvement Grant (SIG). SIG is a programme aimed at providing financially constrained schools with resources to address their most basic needs and meet a set of school functionality standards.
In a telephone interview, Primary and Secondary Education Deputy Minister Edgar Moyo said the programme is currently bearing fruitful results in rural schools and admitted that urban schools also need to at some point, benefit.
“SIG is doing quite well at schools which are benefitting from it. The formal agreement on funding focuses on the highly underpriviledged schools with most rural schools benefiting from this initiative. As for the urban schools, most of them are under municipal control and there are getting funding from the local authorities though at some point there are other schools which need extra funding,” said Moyo.
A teacher from St Bernard’s High School in Pumula who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the bond between a teacher and a pupil has faded.
“You know, the truth is that our bond with the pupils is no more there. This is because of the salary challenges we are facing. Those thorough and committed revision lessons are now a thing of the past,” said the teacher.
Book Sellers’ Association of Zimbabwe national chairman, Paul Masuku, said: “In this whole situation, students are the most affected as there are unable to fully acquire the knowledge they need.
“If a school had budgeted for about 100 books, what they can get now is approximately 30 books which is a cause for concern,” said Masuku.
Veteran academic and Zero Supplies bookshop owner, Clemence Kunzekweguta, said if Unicef extends the programme to urban centres, it will go a long way in increasing the literacy and pass rate of the country.
“If Unicef was to extend the programme to other urban schools, without doubt, the programme on its own will be a success, in turn leading to the visibility of the country’s education sector. This is so as the majority of the urban populace are finding it hard to keep up with the book prices,” said Kunzekweguta. — @mthabisi_mthire.