THERE has been an outrage over the performance of schools in the southern parts of the country after a Zimsec analysis for the 2015 A-level results revealed that provinces in the region anchored the performance table.
The analysis showed that at the tail end was Matabeleland North with 83,6 percent pass rate for girls and 76,5 percent for boys. Bulawayo province occupied ninth position with 86,5 percent pass rate for girls and 80,7 percent for boys. Matabeleland South occupied position eight with 88,4 percent for girls and 83,1 percent pass rates for female and male students respectively. Midlands followed on seventh position with 87,7 percent girls passes against 83,1 percent for boys.
This was in contrast to other provinces led by Harare which recorded 96,8 percent for girls and 79,7 percent for boys followed by Mashonaland East which came second with 94,2 percent for girls and 90,4 percent for boys and Masvingo was third with 93,1 percent for girls and 90,4 percent for boys.
Mashonaland Central came fourth with 92,7 percent for girls and 87,1 percent for boys with Manicaland in fifth place with 91 percent for girls and 87,6 percent for boys and Mashonaland West was placed sixth with 89,4 percent for girls and 83,4 percent for boys.
In separate interviews, parents, stakeholders and researchers said there was need to look closely and find a solution as to why the belt from Midlands to Matabeleland provinces recorded lower results compared to the northern and eastern parts of the country.
“It is worrying,” said Mrs Nomalanga Moyo a parent in Bulawayo. “Schools in this region must start competing at national level. We have good schools and why is the region always performing badly.”
Another parent based in Gweru Mr Tapiwa Kode said such a trend must worry leaders in the provinces to quickly address the situation.
“This cannot be a coincidence that from Midlands to Matabeleland, students are not or maybe the schools are not as good compared to those in other provinces. Our leaders must quickly move in and see why there is such a trend. Soon O-level results will be released and if such a trend emerges again, then definitely there is a problem,” he said.
However, some education leaders in the affected provinces said although the table showed that the region anchored the table, the pass rate was still within “acceptable” range. The Provincial Education Director for Metropolitan Bulawayo, Mr Dan Moyo, said the trend showed that the provinces were close to each other from 80 to 96 percent.
Defending his province, Mr Moyo said it did well although there were a number of issues that were working against the education sector.
“If the question is why are we not number one then I would say it’s because of various issues including having double sessions at schools emphasising the need to increase the number of our schools. The support of the parents of their children’s education is critical. Parents of schoolchildren in Harare are quick to rush and pay if there is money needed for children’s requirements,” he said.
Mr Moyo blamed parents, some who are failing to take advantage of the arrangement most schools in the city have with the National University of Science and Technology for the teaching of Mathematics and Science subjects.
“You find that a child goes for the weekend lessons once and stops afterwards because they don’t have money to pay. But if it was in Harare that would not happen. In Harare they take an interest in their children’s education and ask what textbooks and other items they require but that is not the case here. Even if you look at the payment of levies at Harare High School for instance you will discover there is a 99 percent payment rate but with Bulawayo it will be 35 percent. Those levies help us buy textbooks.”
He also said in comparison to Masvingo and Manicaland it was important to realise they had boarding facilities at mission and Government schools.
“The children at boarding schools have more time to study than their day school counterparts and in Bulawayo for instance when you talk of boarding you are looking at schools like Girls College who mostly write Cambridge exams rather than Zimsec,” he said.
He added that schools in Bulawayo also suffered more compared to others from brain drain of teachers.
“During the 2008 era, Harare was stable in terms of Science and Mathematics teachers while Bulawayo lost many of them as many left for greener pastures. In Harare parents quickly reacted with top ups for teachers when they wanted to leave, that is how they were able to address the situation.”
Matabeleland North PED Mrs Boithatelo Mguni could not shed light on why schools in her province were the least performing.
“I don’t want to comment. Just ask them what they are giving students in Harare,” she said refusing to elaborate what she was insinuating.
The vice-president of the National Association of Secondary School Heads, Mr Arthur Maphosa also blamed parents in the region for not adequately supporting schools heads in the education of their children. He said most parents were reluctant to pay levies, taking advantage of a Government directive which ordered schools not to send children who are failing to pay their school fees home.
“What we have realised is that ever since the Government announced that children should not be sent back home over non-payment of fees, parents in the region have been dilly-dallying. They are not supportive. In most cases, schools fail to do Science experiments as chemicals will only be for final year candidates and this has a bearing on the results that will be produced. Parents should play their part in supporting schools.”
He defended teachers saying some people thought they were lazy when in fact problems were beyond their control.