African Charter Article #17: Every individual shall have the right to education, cultural life, and the promotion and protection of values.
Summary & Comment: Years ago the education system of Zimbabwe was named the best in Africa, but now it is declining because of cut in salaries, disappointing attendance records of both teachers and students, and transport and food problems. It is critical that the sector is not left to collapse. An enduring solution on salaries, food, and working conditions should be reached soon, the monitoring visits must be beefed up. The situation in schools requires urgent action. Zimbabwe’s children are already suffering on multiple fronts;, denying them an education to better their prospects is unacceptable.
Educationists have described the just-released 2009 national Grade Seven examination results as “a small step out of the mud” while the 2007 and 2008 academic results were said to have been the worst of the decade. In 1999, as the educational system in the country started showing distress signs that led to the present downward spiral, the national Grade Seven examination pass rate stood at 53 percent before tumbling to 10 percent in 2007, according to UNICEF.
The worst affected were rural schools where the majority have recorded zero percent pass rate in the recently released Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) Grade Seven examination results. A senior education official from the Matabeleland South region, who declined to be named, said they had not yet compiled the statistics, but initial indications led to between zero to nine percent pass rate in the Grade Seven results. Several “best” pupils in three rural schools in Mashonaland West had 24 units, a far cry from the expected four units. “Although authorities have not yet released this year’s Grade Seven pass rate, I bet you it is little better than the 2007 and 2008 pass rates which were below 10 percent. “The two years’ pass rates were never made public, but we believe them to be the peak of the failure of the education system.
“Academic pass rates for all levels tumbled to below 11 percent,” said Progressive Teachers’ Union secretary-general, Mr Raymond Majongwe. Financial problems and the chaos at ZIMSEC have been cited as the reasons for the poor performance.
“We no longer have faith in ZIMSEC. There were unconfirmed reports of lost Grade Seven scripts. As we speak now some children did not receive their results,” said a senior education official in the Harare region. The educationists have attributed the high failure rate to the collapse of the system in the past two years. While ZIMSEC said they were yet to compile last year’s Grade Seven examinations pass rate, educationists believe the results were a disaster. “Initial reaction to the just-released results by those of us in the education field is that they are atrocious.
“It is not pleasing at all,” said the chief executive officer of Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (ZIMTA), Mr Sifiso Ndhlovu. The majority of rural primary and secondary schools have been recording between zero to eight percent pass rates in national examinations. In 2005, President Robert Mugabe bemoaned the poor school pass rate. “This (high failure rate) is not only a problem here in Shurugwi. Everywhere pupils are failing. It is Us, Us, and Us everywhere. And ‘U’ stands for underground. They are going six feet down if we allow them to fail like this. In Silobela they had three percent pass rate. Shurugwi has a pass rate of eight percent. In other areas it’s six percent, 19 percent, and 27 percent has been the highest so far.
“Our education standards have fallen partly because of lack of resources, but we must lift them up,” said President Mugabe back then. Zimta president Mrs Tendai Chikowore attributed the poor performance to the problems bedevilling the education sector. “Education has been Zimbabwe’s strongest pillar since independence, but that pillar has slowly been eroded. The world over, governments that take education seriously have made sure the sector gets at least 25 percent of budgetary allocation. “Zimbabwe used to do that in the 1980s and in this year’s budget, education received 22 percent of the total allocation.” Mrs Chikowore said serious and definite measures had to be taken to restore the education sector’s glory.
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