Tsholot­sho schools get help for science ed­u­ca­tion

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Feature -

ZIBUNGULULU Sec­ondary School in Tsholot­sho North had gone for five years with no sin­gle can­di­date pass­ing Or­di­nary Level pub­lic ex­am­i­na­tions un­til only one pupil man­aged to pass five sub­jects last year. The pupil, a girl, is still at the same school study­ing math­e­mat­ics and science af­ter fail­ing the two sub­jects. The Mata­bele­land North prov­ince school is not the only ru­ral school that is strug­gling to pro­duce good re­sults.

Its sit­u­a­tion re­flects the gloomy pic­ture of most ru­ral schools which are in­ad­e­quately re­sourced, in­ca­pac­i­tat­ing them from pro­duc­ing ster­ling re­sults.

Apart from lack of re­sources, pupils travel long dis­tances of about 20km per day to and from school, which neg­a­tively af­fects them.

This puts them at a dis­ad­van­tage com­pared to their coun­ter­parts in urban ar­eas that are spoilt for choice when it comes to ed­u­ca­tion.

This was wit­nessed re­cently af­ter the Min­istry of Higher and Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tion Science and Tech­nol­ogy Devel­op­ment launched the STEM pro­gramme which saw ru­ral prov­inces such as Mata­bele­land North com­ing last in the num­ber of pupils sub­scrib­ing to the ini­tia­tive.

Tsholot­sho North con­stituency MP and Min­is­ter of Higher and Ter­tiary Ed­u­ca­tion Science and Tech­nol­ogy Devel­op­ment Pro­fes­sor Jonathan Moyo, whose min­istry is cham­pi­oning STEM, said he was shocked by the low up­take of the ini­tia­tive by schools in Mata­bele­land North prov­ince, let alone schools in his con­stituency.

This prompted him to em­bark on a fact find­ing mis­sion to as­cer­tain why pupils in his con­stituency were per­form­ing hor­ren­dously in pub­lic ex­am­i­na­tions.

He vis­ited all the 11 sec­ondary schools in his con­stituency and in­ter­acted with teach­ers and ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials to dis­cuss the chal­lenges the schools are fac­ing.

In the meet­ings, the teach­ers cited in­ad­e­quate teach­ing ma­te­ri­als and the long dis­tances pupils need to walk to get to school as some of the prob­lems caus­ing pupils to per­form dis­mally.

Af­ter vis­it­ing them, Prof Moyo ad­mit­ted that the schools were in dire need of some in­ter­ven­tions.

“Teach­ing ca­pac­i­ties for sec­ondary schools, con­sid­er­a­tion of staff short­age to is­sues of teach­ing fa­cil­i­ties, class­rooms, lab­o­ra­to­ries and schools them­selves are lim­it­ing fac­tors. Chil­dren have to walk long dis­tances, some were telling sto­ries of how they have to start their day as early as 3AM in or­der to get to school on time and ar­riv­ing back home at 8PM and in some wor­ry­ing cases 10PM,” said Prof Moyo.

A teacher at Zibungululu Sec­ondary School said some pupils view schools as a rest­ing place be­fore they em­bark on their jour­ney back home, mean­ing they can­not fully con­cen­trate on their school work.

Teach­ers said some pupils have never been ex­posed to other en­vi­ron­ments out­side ru­ral Tsholot­sho, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to in­tro­duce some con­cepts to them.

Most of the schools in the con­stituency run low cost board­ing fa­cil­i­ties where some class­rooms have been turned into dor­mi­to­ries for pupils stay­ing far from school.

“It was a mind open­ing and shock­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. In fact, I felt very bad that too of­ten we don’t get an op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with head­mas­ters and teach­ers out­side big meet­ings. When we meet them next, there will be an­other meet­ing go­ing on or it will be a grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony. There­fore, we don’t re­ally sit down and get to un­der­stand the chal­lenges. This was very use­ful be­cause what we learnt was re­veal­ing and even shock­ing,” said Prof Moyo.

He said it was sad that pupils were at­tend­ing school but could not sit for pub­lic ex­am­i­na­tions due to non pay­ment of ex­am­i­na­tion fees.

“We’ve a gen­er­a­tion of young schol­ars that has not com­pleted ‘O’ Level and they be­come a lost gen­er­a­tion. Heaven knows where they end up – some as we know cross the bor­ders to Botswana and South Africa. That means they go for me­nial labour. Oth­ers just dis­ap­pear into the com­mu­nity here,” said Prof Moyo.

He said plans were on course to con­struct five new schools and low cost board­ing fa­cil­i­ties to ad­dress the chal­lenge where pupils have to walk long dis­tances to get to school.

Prof Moyo said the con­struc­tion project will be con­ducted in part­ner­ship with the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

“The chal­lenges faced by ru­ral pupils are ten­fold com­pared to their urban coun­ter­parts. The dis­tances in be­tween schools are long, leav­ing the child un­able to con­cen­trate af­ter the ef­fort of get­ting to school. They put in so much ef­fort to reach a school with no fur­ni­ture, few class­rooms, no com­put­ers or science labs and no equip­ment for ba­sic learn­ing like books and pens among other things,” said Chief Mathu­phula of Tsholot­sho.

He said it was im­per­a­tive to make ed­u­ca­tion ac­ces­si­ble to all.

“The lat­est ini­tia­tive to pro­vide hol­i­day lessons is worth men­tion­ing. These chil­dren are pro­vided with equip­ment to pre­pare for ex­ams, all at no cost. Stu­dents from all schools were given green books, cal­cu­la­tors and other learn­ing ma­te­ri­als.”

“We be­lieve Prof Moyo’s ef­forts di­rected to­wards the ru­ral pupil will pay off as there are a lot of very in­tel­li­gent pupils here who have many odds stacked against them. Ed­u­ca­tion is a ba­sic right, the onus is on our lead­ers to make it ac­ces­si­ble to the ru­ral child,” said Chief Mathu­phula.

Most ru­ral schools suf­fer from un­der devel­op­ment as they op­er­ate with­out run­ning wa­ter and elec­tri­fied houses lead­ing to teach­ers shun­ning them.

Short­ages of text books among other learn­ing aids and fail­ure by pupils to pay school fees con­tinue to be a chal­lenge.

Mata­bele­land North pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion di­rec­tor Mrs Boi­tatelo Mn­guni said more needs to be done to im­prove ru­ral ed­u­ca­tion.

She said it is dif­fi­cult for ru­ral prov­inces to pro­duce good re­sults as most teach­ers they get are al­ways in tran­sit.

“Teach­ers are not ded­i­cated – we want a teacher who can stand what is go­ing on in the school. There’s a lot of mo­bil­ity in ru­ral schools as teach­ers want to leave the school the mo­ment they ar­rive,” said Mrs Mn­guni.

She said they hardly have a teacher who re­mains in a school for long pe­ri­ods and as a re­sult, pupils are con­stantly meet­ing new teach­ers, which can neg­a­tively af­fect them.

Mrs Mn­guni said even af­ter ob­tain­ing science kits, most teach­ers in the prov­ince are not trained to use them.

The science kits con­sist of science ap­pa­ra­tus that can be used in ar­eas where there are no science lab­o­ra­to­ries.

“When the science kits were do­nated, the or­gan­i­sa­tion that was do­nat­ing them also of­fered train­ing on how to use them. But in Mata­bele­land North, we need to have teacher train­ing ev­ery term be­cause of the mo­bil­ity of the teach­ers. But this is not hap­pen­ing.”

Mrs Mn­guni said in­fras­truc­tural devel­op­ment is key if the prov­ince is to re­tain its teach­ers.

The prov­ince is op­er­at­ing with skele­tal staff and in some schools, teach­ers are teach­ing sub­jects that they did not train for, she said.

“We had two schools in Hwange Dis­trict that op­er­ated with a sin­gle teacher teach­ing Grades One to Six. If you close your eyes for a minute, you can imag­ine the chaos in those schools.” — @nqot­shili

Pro­fes­sor Jonathan Moyo

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