Small schools producing worst results

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THE government’s policy to deploy a teacher for every 40 learners is one of the main reasons behind the poor performances in most rural schools where, on average, three teachers are in charge of seven classes, a senior education official has said.

Primary and Secondary Education acting permanent secretary Peter Muzawazi told a recent parliamentary portfolio committee on Primary and Secondary Education strategic planning workshop at the weekend that a school with 120 pupils can only get a maximum of three teachers.

“Staffing regulations for primary schools dictate a teacher-pupil ratio of one teacher for 40 pupils; so, a school with 120 learners can only get a maximum of three teachers.

“If there are 160 pupils that would mean they are eligible for just four teachers which means that the teachers would be teaching mixed classes,” Muzawazi said.

The Primary and Secondary Education acting permanent secretary said these schools also have challenges with infrastructure which further undermines their effectiveness as learning institutions.

“We consider such schools to be unviable because of such numbers but if they were to be staffed with a teacher for each grade then they would perhaps produce the best results because learners need to have one-on-one sessions with their teachers several times a week,” he said.

Muzawazi said the lack of early childhood education teachers and understaffing was creating a situation where some learners are completing primary school with no capacity to read.

“The problem we have is that we have nonreaders at Grade Seven … this is something that should have been achieved by Grade Three,” Muzawazi said.

He said the government was now trying to address early childhood education challenges by training and recruiting Early Childhood Development (ECD) teachers with support from the Word Bank.

“We have a very unique programme that is being supported by the World Bank … we received US$200 000 for the early childhood education and they are impressed with the progress we have made so far and have pledged to continue supporting us,” Muzawazi said.

Last year, Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema announced that he had launched an investigation into circumstances that saw 87 schools in rural Zimbabwe recording zero percent pass rates in the 2019 Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) Grade Seven examinations.

A ranking compiled by Zimsec of the 5 265 schools that had pupils who sat for the examinations indicated that predominantly urban excelled, while rural schools underperformed.

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