Third Term: The fi­nal lap

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion - Opin­ion Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu

ZIM­BABWE’s aca­demic year en­ters the home-stretch as the third term, the fi­nal lap, be­gins next week. Pri­mary school pupils, sec­ondary and ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions’ stu­dents, par­tic­u­larly those of poly­tech­ni­cal col­leges, are pray­ing and hop­ing to do well at the year’s end, so are all teach­ers, par­ents, guardians and the na­tion at large.

End-of-the-year ex­am­i­na­tion re­sults re­flect the joint ef­fort pupils, stu­dents and teach­ers would have put into their stud­ies.

Par­ents’ and guardians’ role has some ef­fect, but not ev­ery­where nor all the time. It is, how­ever, true that pupils and stu­dents from so­cially, eco­nom­i­cally, cul­tur­ally and even po­lit­i­cally un­sta­ble en­vi­ron­ments sel­dom do well in their stud­ies.

Eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple are more con­cerned with the pro­cure­ment of life’s ba­sic needs such as food, cloth­ing, bev­er­ages, ac­com­mo­da­tion, and means of trans­port plus school fees and other req­ui­sites to en­able them to ac­cess ed­u­ca­tion.

In a neg­a­tive eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion, it is dif­fi­cult for pupils and stu­dents to con­cen­trate on their stud­ies.

An un­sta­ble so­cial en­vi­ron­ment dis­turbs the learn­ing pro­cess right from the teach­ing staff to pupils and stu­dents.

The con­sump­tion of al­co­holic bev­er­ages or any other in­tox­i­cat­ing drugs is detri­men­tal to the giv­ing and re­ceiv­ing of knowl­edge, that is to say ed­u­ca­tion.

Ed­u­ca­tional cen­tres sit­u­ated next to beer-drink­ing cen­tres are not so­cially con­ducive to learn­ing.

An en­vi­ron­men­tal com­po­nent of such cen­tres that is a con­stant dis­tur­bance is the level of noise which is usu­ally too high to al­low for con­cen­tra­tion.

We can say with­out any fear of be­ing mis­un­der­stood or mis­in­ter­preted that drunk­en­ness by who­ever is in­volved in the ed­u­ca­tional pro­cess pro­duces neg­a­tive re­sults.

A cul­tural en­vi­ron­ment char­ac­terised by a pro­nounced prac­ti­cal in­ter­est in ed­u­ca­tion has a mo­ti­vat­ing ef­fect on ed­u­ca­tion­ists, pupils and stu­dents.

Ex­am­i­na­tion re­sults in that en­vi­ron­ment are bound to be much bet­ter than in one in which evening fire­side talk is about food col­lec­tion in the veld, fish­ing from streams, ponds, marshes and rivers.

Chil­dren whose par­ents or guardians show and ex­press a high in­ter­est in and re­spect for ed­u­ca­tion will de­velop and main­tain a sim­i­lar, if not the same, at­ti­tude to­wards their stud­ies, and their re­sults will be good.

A coun­try with a po­lit­i­cally sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment has an ef­fi­cient ad­min­is­tra­tive sys­tem, from the min­is­te­rial right down to the vil­lage level.

Ad­min­is­tra­tive sys­tems in­clude in­fra­struc­ture, per­son­nel, equip­ment, com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work and, in the case of ed­u­ca­tional ser­vices, well planned, prag­matic syl­labi rel­e­vant to the coun­try’s so­cio-eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural life, needs and goals.

Learn­ers are bound to un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate lessons about matters that af­fect their ev­ery­day lives much more than those that re­motely do so.

In agri­cul­ture, for in­stance, a coun­try that pro­duces, and whose sta­ple food is, say, pota­toes, should teach about pota­toes and not about yams or man­ioc.

Pupils and stu­dents will show deeper in­ter­est in lessons about that sta­ple crop than in crops pro­duced in Ja­maica or else­where.

The prin­ci­ple in­volved here is that hu­man be­ings learn much more eas­ily and much sooner about what is rel­e­vant to their lives than about for­eign things, ide­olo­gies, dis­eases, foods, mu­sic, re­li­gious and so on and so forth.

Rel­e­vance in the ac­qui­si­tion of ed­u­ca­tion yields good re­sults.

We now look briefly at how best pupils and stu­dents can study, lead­ing to good re­sults. There is, of course, the old fash­ioned in­di­vid­ual method that in­volves swot­ting for their ex­ams.

In this method one tries to com­mit to me­mory what one reads. This method is most suit­able for peo­ple with re­ten­tive minds, that is to say, minds that can re­tain or keep what one has ei­ther heard, seen, read, smelt, touched or tasted.

Some peo­ple’s minds can “store” in­for­ma­tion for long pe­ri­ods; some for only brief pe­ri­ods. Some peo­ple’s minds re­mem­ber what the peo­ple have heard for much longer pe­ri­ods than what they have read.

That seems to be the case with most of us, and this brings us to the sec­ond study­ing method.

It is the group method in which at least three pupils or stu­dents study to­gether. This method may in­volve in­di­vid­ual read­ing of notes or what­ever is rel­e­vant, fol­lowed by dis­cus­sion by the group, ask­ing and an­swer­ing of ques­tions by and within the group.

Read­ing of notes may be by only one of the study group in cases where there are a few books, or if the group feels that to be prefer­able.

It is im­por­tant for each group to have a leader, a role that should ro­tate daily or weekly. Var­i­ous groups can later come to­gether as a class un­der the teacher’s guid­ance to make pre­sen­ta­tions which may be fol­lowed by a writ­ten test on the sub­ject.

This study-group method is widely used by many Ara­bic na­tions at pri­mary, sec­ondary and even at univer­sity lev­els, and is re­ported to yield won­der­ful re­sults.

We ought to add here that ed­u­ca­tional re­sults re­flect the roles of at least four play­ers: the ex­am­in­ers, the teach­ers, the pupils/stu­dents, and, es­pe­cially in the case of day schol­ars, the par­ents or guardians.

Should the ex­am­in­ers set ex­am­i­na­tion ques­tions that are more or less un­re­lated to the syl­labi, poor re­sults will fol­low.

Should the teach­ing or tuition stan­dard be low be­cause the teach­ers are poorly qual­i­fied, or are not ef­fec­tively su­per­vised at var­i­ous lev­els or are in­ad­e­quately re­mu­ner­ated, or the ed­u­ca­tional in­fra­struc­ture is poor or non-ex­is­tent, or be­cause there is a scarcity of teach­ing aids (ap­pa­ra­tus), or be­cause the teach­ers are phys­i­cally or men­tally tired due to what­ever rea­son, re­sults are most likely to be poor.

Pupils and stu­dents need en­cour­age­ment, su­per­vi­sion and guid­ance to help them per­form max­i­mally.

That is es­pe­cially so at pri­mary and sec­ondary school lev­els be­cause of the chil­dren’s young age, a time when play­ful­ness is a part of one’s life.

The older they grow, the more fo­cused they be­come, and the less en­cour­age­ment they need. But su­per­vi­sion and pro­fes­sional guid­ance are re­quired for good re­sults through­out one’s ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence.

Pupils and stu­dents who heed their teach­ers’, par­ents’ or guardians’ ad­vice, usu­ally do well at school, all things be­ing equal.

The role of par­ents and guardians is to en­cour­age and ma­te­ri­ally sup­port their chil­dren. In nor­mal so­cio-eco­nomic and mod­ern cul­tural cir­cum­stances, it is un­der­stand­able for a child to fail to achieve the ed­u­ca­tional heights his or her par­ents wish him or her to reach be­cause of his or her own weak­ness than for par­ents or guardians to fail to en­cour­age and sup­port the child ma­te­ri­ally and oth­er­wise.

This is based on an old SiNde­bele/Kalanga dic­tum: Indlovu kay­isindwa ngumb­hoko wayo/Hhowu hhay­ito lemegwa nem­boko wayo.

Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a re­tired, Bu­l­away­obased jour­nal­ist and school teacher. He can be con­tacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email. sg­

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