BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA/BLESSED MHLANGA
PRIMARY and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema yesterday blamed sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by Western countries and lack of staff supervision by headmasters for the poor pass rate recorded in the last public examinations.
Mathema said this in a ministerial statement which he issued in the National Assembly following a public outcry over poor Grade 7 results released early this month.
Teachers’ unions and civic groups recently accused government of neglecting the education sector, hence the poor results.
But Mathema said the high failure rate in the Grade 7 examinations was expected as the COVID-19 pandemic had also severely affected the smooth flow of the education calendar.
Buhera Central MP Matthew Nyashanu (Zanu PF) had asked him to explain the high failure rate by Grade 7 pupils in the 2020 examinations after pupils registered a 37,11% pass rate, with some schools at 0% .
Nyashanu also alleged that there was laxity at schools by teachers to properly instruct the students, adding that the teachers were abandoning pupils.
“Clearly, this is an element of indiscipline on the part of the schools administrators if they are not making sure that teachers and other school employees do what they are supposed to do. We are very clear on that one, and we will do the best we can to make sure that this indiscipline does not prevail in our schools,” Mathema said.
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“Having said that, we also need support from the international community in education as well, but as long as there are sanctions, we will have a big problem. We already have a challenge because of the economic sanctions that were imposed on our country.
“As for the teachers being paid in US dollars, well, that decision is made by the relevant authority, that is, the Ministry of Finance. It is definitely not feasible at the moment. We cannot pay them as we just said the economy is not performing.”
Early this month, Presidential spokesperson George Charamba torched a storm after he blamed teachers for the below par performance by Grade 7 pupils.
He said better results could have been achieved if the majority of teachers were dedicated to duty.
Charamba also labelled some union leaders as “criminals” bent on tarnishing government’s image instead of promoting development of the education sector.
His accusations came after the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe and the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe accused government of neglecting basic school infrastructure and denying rural schools access to e-learning facilities.
Asked whether it made sense for Grade 7 pupils who failed to proceed to Form 1, Mathema said they would continue as it was not a terminal examination.
“Zimbabweans need to know that the Grade 7 examination is not the old Standard Six certification, which was a terminal examination that could give candidates or students avenues to professions.
“The Grade 7 examination marks the end of primary school by measuring what candidates know and are able to do. After this examination, all students are absorbed in the secondary education system because the Grade 7 examination is not a terminal examination, but a formative one which gives information to receiving teachers in the secondary school system,” he said.
But Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education chairperson Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said normally when a child failed Grade 7, they were also likely to fail their “O” Level examinations.
Mathema said the country needed at least 3 000 more schools and more teachers, adding that recently 3 000 teachers were employed into the system.
On boarding school places, Mathema said the country only had 24 600 places at boarding schools throughout the country — both at public, private and mission schools.
“We had over 300 000 learners who sat for Grade 7 examinations, and there is need for more investment, both in the public and private sector so that those parents who want their children to go to boarding schools will let them go,” he said.
Government yesterday indicated that it was looking at ways to open schools in a safe environment following a drop in COVID-19 infections and deaths.
This was revealed by Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa during her post-Cabinet media briefing.
“Regarding primary and secondary education, the responsible ministry continues to work with the Ministry of Health and Child Care to prepare for the inevitable reopening of schools,” Mutsvangwa said.
“Meanwhile, the training of school health co-ordinators and the assessment of the schools preparations for the resumption of learning is ongoing. Government is doing its best to ensure that adequate precautionary measures are taken before schools are reopened.”
Pertaining to the COVID-19 rollout programme which was launched last Thursday, and commenced on February 22, Mutsvangwa said government would guarantee that there was a steady flow of vaccine doses to ensure that all the targeted groups received the jabs.
“The Republics of India and the Russian Federation have donated COVID-19 vaccines to the tune of 75 000 and 12 000 doses to Zimbabwe, respectively. The vaccines come on the backdrop of another 200 000 doses donated by the People’s Republic of China.”
She said the Information ministry had also included journalists in phase one of the inoculation exercise, where they will be considered as essential services as they played a crucial role in providing information that saved lives.
“Similarly, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development has requested the Minister of Health to designate the roads sector as an essential service under the lockdown regulations,” she said.
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