BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
PARLIAMENT yesterday urged government to urgently improve the welfare of teachers before schools reopen for the first term to motivate them and, therefore, improve the pass rates in public examinations.
Schools were closed for the most part of last year due to COVID-19 and are still to open for the first term this year.
Giving her committee’s recommendation during a virtual meeting yesterday, Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education chairperson Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said improving the welfare of teachers should be treated as an urgent matter.
“There is an urgent need for the government to comprehensively focus on improving the welfare of teachers and adequately equipping them before schools opening,” she said.
Teachers’ unions and civic groups have accused government of neglecting the education sector, hence the poor results in the 2020 Grade 7 examination results released by the Zimbabwe Examination Council (Zimsec) early this month.
Statistics provided by the Zimsec revealed a 37,11% pass rate, down from 46,9% the previous year.
Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema has blamed sanctions imposed on the country by the West, lack of commitment by teachers as well as the COVID-19 pandemic for the high failure rate.
As part of the recommendations, the parliamentary committee said teachers should be prioritised for the COVID-19 vaccination since they were considered frontline workers in the education sector.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the Education ministry should engage with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to use tents used during voting as temporary classrooms to ensure social distancing.
“Government must prioritise the availability of water and sanitisation in all schools as measures to ensure compliance with the WHO [World Health Organisation] guidelines before schools open,” she said.
“Parents with children who want to repeat Grade 7 due to poor performance must be allowed to do so and must bear the cost.”
Misihairabwi-Mushonga suggested that the ministry should establish why some schools have been perennially getting 0% pass rates and report to Parliament before April 31, 2021.
“The ministry presents before the august House the measures being put in place to ensure that all learners have access to equal learning, including online lessons despite their circumstances by April 30 this year,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga said.
She recommended that the ministry equips rural schools with more resources to ensure equity during this 2021 year and in the short term, the ministry improves access to education by investing in solar radios for vulnerable learners.
Buhera South MP Joseph Chinotimba (Zanu PF) said the government should allow pupils who performed badly to repeat.
“We used to make the children repeat when they failed Grade 7, but currently, they are all pushed into Form 1,” Chinotimba said, reacting to a government order that all pupils, even those that dismally failed, should proceed to Form 1.
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