IT cannot be disputed that the government scored significant gains in the Ministry of Education in the period soon after Independence. In a similar manner, it cannot be denied that those gains have since been eroded. The ministry now rese
mbles a national archive of despair.
To spruce up the image of the ministry in Matabeleland North province, the government recently announced that many schools will be elevated to ‘A’ level status. Tsholotsho will have about a dozen of its schools thus upgraded. To spice it up, plans are afoot to construct Lupane University to cater for local students’ needs.
While I appreciate government’s efforts to pacify the people in this province, I have strong reservations about how these ‘A’ level schools will benefit the people. As a starting point, a cluster of dilapidated buildings called secondary schools (in the bush) have been termed ‘A’ level schools. It is from these run-down structures government expects to produce suitably qualified ‘O’ level graduates to feed into ‘A’ level schools.
A quick glance at ‘O’ level results in the districts reveals that some schools did not produce a single student with five ‘O’ level subjects in last year’s examinations.
A number of factors have militated against stakeholders’ efforts to improve results. Most of the schools lack library facilities while some do not have classroom blocks and science laboratories. Teachers conduct lessons under trees. Some schools do not have enough textbooks and pupils having to compete for scarce stationery.
The foot-soldiers of the ministry, teachers, who are expected to implement these policies are a highly demoralised lot as they work under hostile conditions. It would be an exercise in futility if government were to shy away from these problems and expect to improve the situation by merely giving more schools ‘A’ level status.
The problem lies at the foundation of our schools and not at their roof level. The government should instead be working on its curriculum needs with a view to revamping it in conformity with the demands of today’s global markets that favour science and technology. Schools need more computers and practical subjects.
The government could turn some of these secondary schools into vocational training centres and schools of excellence to tap the talents of those pupils who are not academically competent but are gifted in areas such as music, drama, soccer and athletics.
The quality of education cannot be measured by the number of ‘A’ level schools and universities dotted around the country but by schools’ curriculum and whether these are market-driven or mere platforms to produce ‘O’ and ‘A’ level graduates who will roam the streets.