THE November 2013 Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council Ordinary Level results show that 80% of all the students who set the exams failed.
The question is why?
The answer cannot be clear-cut because the reasons for this dismal performance are quite varied. One school, Monte Casino High School in Macheke, achieved a 100% pass rate while many others had not a single student who passed.
Some would say Monte Casino is a well-resourced and well-established mission school.
True, it is an old school, having been established at the beginning of the last century. It attracts good teachers and the Catholic work ethic moulds the students into a culture of hard work and achievement.
The worst performing school is the opposite. At its best, it doesn’t even have decent classrooms; students learn from makeshift shelters or even under trees.
Textbooks are always a challenge; in some cases only the teacher having access to a textbook. This school doesn’t attract competent teachers and the pupils are the children of the poorest in our society who cannot in anyway intervene in the education process of their children.
High-achieving schools also attract smart students. Almost every parent now wants to put his child into Monte Casino, so the school has an entrance examination which only the sharpest students can pass. The school enrols the crème de la crème.
A combination of smart teachers and smart students is always a winner. Add to that, fairly wealthy parents who can intervene financially or otherwise in their children’s education by helping the school in securing learning resources and aids.
The dichotomy between the one school and the other has made our education elitist; only the children of the rich will make it while the rest are condemned to a life outside the mainstream economy.
Government is to blame for this. Why does it allow 80% of the students to sit for exams when they are clearly not ready for them?
Any teacher will tell you by the beginning of the examination year, which of his pupils will pass and which will fail. But parents are forced to pay examination fees for these children anyway; money they really have to scrounge around to raise.
Government cannot continue to perpetuate a system that so blatantly cheats not only the students who are not yet ready for exams, but also the parents who are made to believe that somehow their children would scrape through.
If government has accepted that its education system should be elitist as it is today, then it should come up with an alternative system for children who will never make it in the current system, instead of fooling everyone into believing all children have an equal chance when they don’t.
Children are failing not because they are pathetically daft, but because of an education system tailor-made for a certain class of student at the expense of some sections of society.