MATABELELAND North education director Jabulani Mpofu has ordered all schools in remote areas that did not surpass the 30% pass rate at Grade 7 last year to conduct mandatory lessons during the April and August holidays.
In a statement dated April 2 and circulated to primary schools in the province, Mpofu highlighted that the incapacitation of teachers during this first term, which resulted in some of them failing to report for work, had necessitated the development.
The statement read: “The province is worried about the pass rates for 2019, and as such, all schools which attained 30% and below pass rates at Grade 7 public examinations in 2018 are to hold vacation school for Grades 5 to 7 learners in order to prepare them for better performance.
He added: “All teachers in the affected schools should engage in the vacation school and concentrate on the Grades 5 to 7 leaners. Your dedication and commitment to learners’ performance will contribute to high learner performance standards in the province.”
However, Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) president Obert Masaraure said the poor pass rate was not the fault of educators.
“Most schools that failed to meet the mark in Mat North lack textbooks, have poor infrastructure and have teachers that get paid paltry salaries. Teachers are supposed to rest and scheme for next term,” he said.
The ARTUZ leader also said teachers use the school holidays to venture into entrepreneurship to augment their poor salaries while others who live away from their schools use the time to bond with their families.
“This State shows that education administrators in Mat North have no compassion as they imagine teachers working in hard-hit areas working around the clock,” he said.
“This is unlawful, unfortunate, callous and a clear misunderstanding of fundamentals affecting student performance in schools. The home environment, availability of resources at school, government support, curriculum suitability and accommodation of student interests, motivation of both teachers and learners are important.
“Sadly, without any baseline survey the acting provincial director has reached a wrong conclusion. He is certainly engaging in cold and calculated educational vandalism. He must be reminded that teachers and students are not machines, but human beings that need some rest so that they start their second term with more vigour and enthusiasm. There is danger of exhausting both teachers and students with consequent dismal performance.
“All decisions reached in schools must be products of engagement and logical disputation rather than merely pushing unpopular decisions down the throat of teachers. ARTUZ is currently carrying out research on under-performance in borderlands and what is coming out has nothing to do with extra lessons, but with lack of food, shelter, long distance to and from school, resources in schools, water shortages, infrastructural dilapidation, limited government support, high teacher turn over, among others.”
The prevailing law on vacation school is that schools apply to the ministry for permission to hold the lessons.
Otherwise government outlawed the lessons years ago following accusations of profiteering by schools who were charging pupils for the lessons. The government also said pupils needed time to rest.