ZIMBABWE: Recently, Zimbabwe School Examination Council (ZIMSEC) released ‘0’ Level results where there was almost a 7 per cent decline in the pass rate.
In February, nearly 10 per cent decline was also recorded for Grade 7 and 88 schools recorded a 0 per cent pass rate and most of them are rural schools.
For years, Zimbabwe has been counted among the top countries in providing quality education in terms of Mathematics and Science in Africa.
However, behind the aristocracy, some innocent rural children have been neglected and forgotten while their dreams are always behind and different from their counterparts in better schools.
Looking at the learning system in the country, a rudimentary knowledge of education tells anyone that the statistics to rank the top position are a bit deceiving as they represent the only positive figures from the elite schools.
Categories of schools
Levels of schools in Zimbabwe are categorised as Primary (P) 1-3 and Secondary(S) 1-3.
P1and S1 schools are those located in low-density areas, while P2 and S2 are urban high-density government schools and boarding schools in rural areas and P3 and S3 are rural schools.
Amongst these categories, P3 and S3 pupils are vulnerable to all sorts of injustices in the education arena.
Regardless of the efforts, they put to excel, the majority never reach an equal position with those in the urban setup.
The range of subjects offered in rural schools is far behind those in the other 2 categories due to poor infrastructure in rural areas.
Several rural schools have no electricity, adaptive classrooms and computers among others to practically conduct lessons effectively.
It is sad to note that while other Ordinary Level (O Level) pupils have a choice to choose on Science subjects to undertake, rural children have no choice than Integrated Science.
To make matters worse, the subject is done theoretically with no apparatus or laboratory for practicals.
With regards to Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the third category is lagging behind as few schools have electricity which means there is no access to institutional wifi as well as computers.
However, in some areas classes are made of dagga, poles and grass where children sit on the ground or poles.
This is contrary to Sustainable Development Goal 4 which calls for inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life long learning opportunities for all.
Advanced Level (A-Level) pupils are limited to Arts and Commercial subjects only regardless that some have flying colours in Science combination subjects.
Unequal representation in parliament
With regards to regional and national representation, the majority of junior parliamentarians are from better schools who have no idea on the experiences of their fellow peers who are at a disadvantage.
Many children in rural areas have talents in different activities but no one can identify them as they have no exposure to the world.
Ignorance of government towards education in rural manifested itself last year when final year candidates for primary and secondary schools were forced to sit for the final exams after the country has been under a lockdown since March.
Urban children attended online, radio and extra lessons while some rural children didn’t attend as their parents cannot afford adaptive gadgets.
Unfortunately, telecommunications service providers increased data costs which made it difficult for children to learn online.
Also in some areas, internet connection and radio transmission are poor while others had no adaptive devices to learn due to underlying poverty.
Due to lockdown, sources of income for many have been shattered which means learning online was a pleasure as parents could fend to bring food to the table.
Government and teachers clash
Moreover, when the government announced schools to open for examination classes, teachers refused to report on duty as they were incapacitated.
Nevertheless, to address the inequality in education, a teacher’s union Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union (ARTUZ) called for the setup of the Education Equalisation Fund which intends to bridge the poverty gap between rural and urban schools but to no avail.
After the union raised a concern on poor infrastructure as the major cause of the low pass rate in 2020, a government official accused two rural teachers unions (Amalgamated Rural Teachers Association and Progressive Teachers Union Zimbabwe) and their members to be responsible.
However, ARTUZ pointed the government for using the elitist approach in education and ignoring the majority as the public proposed the postponement of examinations so that children can be well equipped.
In a statement, ARTUZ wrote, “The governing authority is elitist in approach and they have the comfort of sending their children to elite schools where they get elite treatment and elitist education whilst the majority exist in abject poverty and their concerns are swept under the carpet.”
This is with no doubt because political figures children learn in ‘A’ schools or outside the country where quality education is guaranteed.
While other parents do on-campus jobs mainly brick moulding to carter for children education.
In such scenarios, online education and extra lessons are a pleasure as school fees are the most thing they can afford to pay for their children.
Effects of the ignorance
The abandonment of rural children education has contributed to high rates of child labour due to financial constraints as some cannot afford to pay school fees.
Young boys are involved in mining while girls are victims of early marriages, violence and sexual harassment.
To ensure the betterment of the future of rural children, the government should engage teachers in decision making, as well as prioritise rural children participation in junior parliament.