‘O’ and ‘A’ Level results are finally out and again church-run and private schools performed better than government schools.
Why have government schools been performing so poorly and what are church-run and private schools doing so differently that have made them continue producing outstanding results?
A survey conducted by Southern Eye revealed that the best performing schools in Bulawayo at both ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level are church-run with their government counterparts are lagging far behind.
For example, the Anglican Church-run St Columbus High School in Makokoba produced the best Zimbabwe School Examination Council (Zimsec) ‘O’ Level results in Bulawayo and was ranked 33rd nationally.
The only other school from Bulawayo that made it into the top 100 nationally is another church-run school, Maranatha Adventist High School in Nketa which was ranked 57th.
Some of the city’s former top performing government schools such as Mpopoma High, Mzilikazi High, Milton High and Luvuve High are no longer counted among the elite performers.
It is the same at ‘A’ Level with private and church schools dominating.
Educationists have attributed the high pass rate at private and church-run schools to low enrolment which balances the teacher-pupil ratio, whereas government schools have high enrolment and the teacher-pupil ratio does not balance.
“Private schools attain better pass rates compared to government schools because the enrolment at private schools is lower and this enables all pupils to get attention from the teacher unlike in a government school where there is a high enrolment and not all the pupils’ academic special needs are addressed,” said former Education minister David Coltart.
Coltart also said private schools had sufficient finances to cater for pupils’ academic needs while government schools are underfinanced to the extent that they do not have enough textbooks for all students.
“The government is failing to fund its schools and as a result, you find five students sharing a text book, which automatically makes it hard for all of them to fully make use of the textbook.
“Students who suffer the most are those doing science subjects. Most of the government schools have insufficient or no laboratory equipment to carry out practical tests,” he said.
Coltart said it was rare to find even two students sharing a book in private schools and this made their learning process easy and comfortable.
He also singled out infrastructure as a major contributing factor to poor performances of pupils in government schools.
Coltart said when he embarked on a tour of some schools; he was devastated by the dilapidated state they were in.
“When I was still in office, I carried out a tour to some local schools and the infrastructure is not conducive for pupils to learn. There are more of broken glass windows, broken chairs, shortage of furniture and rugged roofs. That on its own dismisses the serious mood of learning resulting in poor performances,” Coltart said.
He also said the low remuneration for teachers at government schools demotivated them from fully and wholeheartedly delivering while their counterparts at private schools were competitively remunerated and motivated to execute their duties passionately.
He said the only way to bridge the gap between government schools and private schools was for the government to fully fund its schools.
Admissions also play a crucial role in pass rates as Southern Eye discovered that while government schools are forced to admit below-average students, private and church-run schools put in a place a mechanism that ensures they get the cream to maintain academic excellence.
An official at the Bulawayo Dominican Convent said prospective learners go through a rigorous admission process that includes an intensive interview process followed by a written entrance test.
That way, the school weeds out potential poor performers from the outset.
“It’s a policy in the school that before a child is admitted for Form One, they go through an interview and entrance test. But for one to qualify for the interview, they must have not more than eight points Grade Seven,” said the official.
She said for ‘A’ Level, the school gave first preference to its learners before considering outsiders and they would have performed very well to be admitted.
“The reason why our students are excelling is because we provide the best for them and they are so exposed to the extent that they all have big dreams. Recently a group of ‘A’ Level students went to Europe on a trip and that on its own motivates them,” she said.
An official at St Columbus High School said church-run schools performed well academically because the students were socialised in Christian values which in turn shaped their characters.
“As a parish school, everything that we do is based on Christian values and as a result more of our students are shaped into decent individuals and they have self-motivation within themselves without having the teachers pushing them,” the official said.
In contrast, a teacher at the government’s Townsend Girls High School said they admitted Form 1 pupils who have as much as 36 points at Grade Seven.
“The reason why government schools are lagging behind in terms of results is because we admit children who have dismally failed Grade Seven. We only screen them internally according to their grades,” the teacher said.
“That is why you find that government schools have special classes because those who would have performed dismally at Grade Seven are put in their own class,” she said.
Another teacher from Founders High School said the reason most government schools performed dismally was because they admitted anyone who applied without any conditions.
“The school admits everyone who applies as long as there is a vacancy. Different children from different walks of life are enrolled into the school and generally they are uncontrollable as the majority are morally unstable,” said the teacher.
“The majority of students have since found it fashionable to drink beer and smoke weed (mbanje) within the school premises. Most of the children have turned immoral activities into their extra curriculum activities because they are not exposed to the other side of education which is going out for social trips,” she said.
Over the years, there have been many scandals of school children allocating themselves leisure time during school hours as many can be seen loitering at the Centenary Park engaging in immoral acts that they visibly enjoy.
It was reported last week that Montrose Girls High schoolgirls engaged in immoral activities like drinking beer and indulging in sex close to the school’s premises during learning hours.