UPON arriving at the learning institution, one’s eye is caught by the disproportionate ages of the pupils — particularly those who are clearly beyond primary school age.
BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA
This is the situation at Nangabwe Primary School in Chikomba East where both primary and secondary pupils have been learning at the same school, sharing dilapidated classrooms for over 10 years.
The secondary school was established in 2002, a stone’s throw away from the primary school, but lack of financial resources has resulted in the merging of both schools into one for purposes of infrastructure sharing.
“This is the situation here. We are sharing classrooms, but it is not healthy for learners. There are young learners here who can easily imitate what is being done by the older learners, hence, it affects their behaviour. But this is what is on the ground, we pray that the secondary school structures are built so that we retain all the space,” Webster Mupfurirwa said, the primary school head, adding that Grade Five and Six pupils shared the same classroom.
When NewsDay visited the school last week, it established that both primary and secondary pupils shared a similar routine for assembly, break time and lunch.
Infrastructure at the primary school is dilapidated with some of the classroom roofs being supported with wooden poles to prevent them from falling inside. The doors at the classrooms hang precariously while most of the window panes are broken.
Nangabwe Primary School was established in 1923, hence, most of the buildings have outlived their lifespan, developing cracks associated with old age. This has seen the school authorities pleading for financial assistance to renovate it. The school services about 24 villages.
“There is no development as most parents are reluctant to pay the fees. The thing is that most parents rely on non-governmental organisations like Campaign for Female Education (Camfed) who have been paying fees for some of the children. But today, some of the organisations have moved out hence no meaningful revenue is getting to the school,” said a teacher who declined to be identified.
“Moreover, some parents will withdraw their pupils after realising that a debt is ballooning and enrol the pupil at another nearby school, just to evade paying of fees.”
Nangabwe primary has an enrolment of 211 pupils with each paying $15 per term, while the secondary school has an enrolment of 67 pupils paying $30 per term.
The secondary school is serviced by four teachers, including the head, with some teachers having to teach three subjects from Form 1 to 4.
The secondary school’s head, Itayi Chikuriri, said they were working flat out to construct the school, so that they could have their own space.
“We are currently constructing the secondary school on a very tight budget. My wish is that by December this year we would have finished one block. So far we have done the toilets up to slab level while the foundation of the block has been done as well. Our enrolment fluctuates here, last year we had 85 pupils but this year we have 67, some did not come back for various reasons,” she said.
Despite the situation, the secondary school is an examination centre. Partson Chitedega the school development committee chairperson (SDC) said their efforts to erect a school block were being hampered by an education inspector identified as Mangwiro, who was “bossy” and failing to co-operate with him.
“Since my committee took over, we have done a lot to ensure that we have a school of our own. We received money from SIG (School Improvement Grants) that we used to purchase building materials but when we invited Mangwiro to inspect the foundation, he mocked us and said we employed a builder, who is good in constructing graves not classrooms,” he said.
“We asked Mangwiro where we had erred but he did not tell us and we did not get even a report. He went and never returned. The 150 bags of cement we had bought to construct the block was about to go bad and we had to mould 21 000 bricks with it, otherwise we were going to lose it.”
SIG is a multi-donor programme which focuses on providing quality education in disadvantaged rural schools and is funded by such aid agencies as the UK Department for International Development (DFID) through United Nations Children’s Fund .
On November 29, 2015 the government, through the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, issued a statement seeking a joint venture partnership on school infrastructure development.
According to the circular, the partnership will comprise of two models:
The Build and Transfer model where infrastructure development companies construct school infrastructure, hand over to the ministry for use and receive loan payments as agreed at the time of entering agreement, and The model where institutions provide funds for the construction of school infrastructure and receive their loan repayments as agreed at the time of entering the agreement.
The councillor for Ward 24, Chamunorwa Tseriwa, said it is disheartening that for over 10 years they have failed to erect structures at the school.
“We are worried and we do not like such a situation where primary and secondary school pupils share the same premises. Since 2002 we are struggling to construct a secondary due to a number of reasons among them financial shortages. I am pleading to well-wishers to assist us so that we finally have a secondary school here,” he said.
According to Tseriwa, some pupils have left the school to neighbouring Warikandwa and Sadza, where there are better learning conditions and infrastructure.
Meanwhile, it is reported that Chikomba East legislator Edgar Mbwembwe has already formed the Chikomba East Development Association, a group of people from the constituency, being called to give back to their communities for the development of the area.
Poor learning conditions in rural areas have been a thorn in the flesh to many pupils despite government saying that it was working towards improving school infrastructure to meet modern demands as well as constructing more learning institutions.
At Nangabwe Primary School, it is business as usual as both the young and older pupils take turns to enter into the Blair toilets and perhaps sharing food during lunchtime.