Massive 50% drop in ‘O’ Level candidates

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Obert Masaraure

BY KUDAKWASHE TAGWIREYI
THE number of candidates sitting for Ordinary Level examinations has plummeted by 50% in five years, prompting teachers unions to raise alarm.

The number of candidates sitting for the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) ‘O’ level examinations dropped from 332 473 in 2017 to 163 179 in 2021.

In 2018, 239 441 candidates sat for the exams, while in 2019 the figure slightly rose to 296 464, but dropped to184 289 in 2020.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou told NewsDay that the decrease in the number of ‘O’ level candidates in the country can be attributed to high poverty levels.

“The issue that is clear is that there is increasing poverty and a considerable number of poor parents are failing to pay school fees resulting in a high dropout rate of candidates.

“We have more than 169 000 children who drop out of school on a yearly basis and these are not necessarily candidates.  Between 2020 and 2021 an estimated 20 000 girls were impregnated during the COVID-19 lockdown period, and it’s most likely that those girls did not have the opportunity to continue with their education.  The whole essence hinges on poverty and failure by government to assists children from poor backgrounds,” Zhou said.

He alleged that although the country had the Basic Education Assistance Module to assist poor children with fees, those that were benefiting were relatives of politicians.

“A lot of students are dropping out of school and are venturing into artisanal mining or going to neighbouring countries to pick oranges and bananas.  People are motivated to attain education if they get gainfully employed later.  Government and policymakers have lost touch with what is happening at schools,” he said.

Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure (pictured) said:  “The sons and daughters of government officials are not in public schools and they do not even sit for Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec) examinations.”

Zimsec spokesperson Nicholette Dhlamini said: “It is the responsibility of schools to give to Zimsec the figures of candidates who have registered as candidates.”

Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro said some of the measures that the government was taking to ensure that children stay in school was to implement the Education Amendment Act of 2020, which allows pregnant girls or nursing teenagers to attend formal lessons.

“We have a very vibrant community outreach programme that encourages all learners that have dropped out of school to come back to school. This massive publicity drive is buttressed by the Education Amendment Act of 2020 that allows even pregnant girls or nursing teenagers to attend formal school,” Ndoro said.

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