Gwanda schools crying out for help

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REPORTS of schools in remote areas especially in Matabeleland performing dismally in public examinations, no longer make big news.

Despite Zimbabwe’s acclaimed record as one of the countries with the highest literacy rate in Africa, thousands of children fail to proceed to secondary education in rural areas due to poor grades.

Gwanda district is one of the areas where very few students go beyond Grade 7. Most of them end up leaving the country to South Africa or Botswana to seek jobs at a premature age.

The trend did not change with last year’s examinations with the district’s primary schools recording a slight increase in the Grade 7 pass rate pegged at 21,5%. In 2012, 18% of the Grade 7 students passed their end of year examinations. Six schools recorded a 0% pass rate, a marked decline from 2012’s 16.

However, no sane person can rejoice at these figures even when the numbers are improving.

The target for every school should be 100% especially at primary level. Reasons for such poor pass rates include inadequate supervision to lack of learning and teaching facilities.

Parents have also been failing to raise fees and levies for their children with school heads insisting on excluding those that fail to pay on time. The government has been struggling to deploy qualified teachers at most of the remote areas.

But statistics from Gwanda district should provide a reality check for the government which takes every opportunity to remind the world of strides made in the education sector since independence.

But the statistics that are often bandied about have no meaning for these children that are forced by circumstances to enrol at schools that have no hope of producing students who go on to excel in life.

The government should prioritise the improvement of the learning environment in remote schools such as those that recorded a 0% pass rate in Gwanda for it to be successful in breaking the poverty cycle.

There are a lot of schools that have been historically disadvantaged and it should shame all of us that almost 34 years after independence we still have schools that cannot have a single student passing a Grade 7 final examination.