The continued poor performance of children from Matabeleland region in public examinations needs urgent corrective attention from authorities and resources channelled towards priority areas, activists have said.
The 2020 Grade Seven results came out on Friday last week, with a national pass rate of 37. 11 percent, a decrease of 9.79 percent from 2019’s national pass rate that stood at 46.9 percent.
The school calendar suffered knocks last year when schools were closed prematurely in March to contain the spread of Covid-19 while learners had to resort online learning, which posed challenges especially for poor communities that had no telecommunication infrastructure.
Results showed that nine of the top ranked schools were in Harare while Bulawayo did not have a school ranked in the top 40.
88 schools countrywide recorded a zero pass rate while the 10 worst schools with zero pass rate are in Matabeleland.
The low pass rate in Matabeleland prompted concerns from activists who cited a lack of resources and infrastructure as a reason why schools in the region failed.
Ibhetshu LikaZulu, Secretary-General, Mbuso Fuzwayo told CITE that the low pass rate in Matabeleland could be attributed to the government’s initiated deliberate marginalisation, which had to be addressed immediately.
Fuzwayo said the low pass rate was a sad development that had been going on for years.
“This can be attributed to lack of restorative justice after Gukurahundi genocide, the region lost a lot of infrastructure and human resource that would have made the region at par if not better than the rest of the country,” he said.
“We have warned repeatedly that lack of initiatives, which seriously address this sad loss will have adverse effects on the development of this country and may result in conflict in future.”
The activist noted that a “remorseful and humane” government would have by now initiated what he described as a “Marginalised Equalisations Fund” that could be five percent of the national budget.
“This fund can be aimed at developing Matabeleland and Midlands regions to the level of other areas in the country that are developed while these regions were deliberately marginalised,” Fuzwayo said.
The learning period in Zimbabwe was also punctuated by teachers’ incapacitation, aggravated by the government’s failure to provide Covid-19 equipment to schools.
Fuzwayo also urged the government to seriously address remuneration concerns of the teachers.
“The government must continuously engage them so that the students receive a good service from the motivated teachers, for a positive result. The teachers have raised grievances that have not been taken into consideration by the government” said the activist.
Fuzwayo said Ibhetshu LikaZulu was seriously concerned by the government’s failure to address the education of marginalised areas or distribute resources accordingly.
“The consequences may be dire for our country, the government is advised to take serious corrective measures,” he noted.
Outspoken leader of Mthwakazi Republic Party, Mqondisi Moyo, added that the government must deploy teachers conversant in local languages in Matabeleland.
“The continued deployment of Shona teachers in schools in Mthwakazi particularly Matabeleland North contributes to zero pass rate. Failure to do so shows us this a well calculated move to promote the 1979 Grandplan, which talks of taking over the running of schools in Matabeleland and Midlands,” he alleged.
Moyo said the government must consider allowing the deployment of teachers to be done at district levels such as before.
“Now teachers come all the way from Harare to be deployed to schools in Matabeleland to come teach Early Child Development classes, yet cannot converse in local languages, something which is not happening in Mashonaland,” he claimed.
The MRP leader said on another note, the Grade Seven results of 2020 should have been nullified because not much learning took place.
“2020 was just a year which never existed. Parents were supposed not to allow their children to sit for the exams. The results don’t reflect the negativity of Covid-19 on education, especially those parents or guardians who could not afford extra lessons,” Moyo said.
Critical studies scholar, Khanyile Mlotshwa concurred that some schools in Matabeleland were still reeling from the effects of Gukurahundi.
“These are the effects of Gukurahundi that destroyed infrastructure and killed personnel. Its effects are now felt in the social fabric of society and in Matabeleland including the pass rate of Grade Seven leaners. There are other factors contributing to such the low pass rate and a national discourse or interrogation has to be done to improve the education sector and pass rate while schools that are behind infrastructurally should be well resourced to catch up,” he said.