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Pass Rates in Local Schools Deteriorate Amidst COVID-19

In Hwange, children who failed national exams during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic are now job seekers. Image by Unsplash

BY LETHOKUHLE NKOMO | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | NOV 2, 2022

COVID-19 laid bare challenges faced by local schools, as most of them recorded zero passes in public examinations run during the COVID-19 pandemic.

HWANGE (The Citizen Bulletin) — Innocent Tshuma (18) goes to the Hwange Power Station main gate every day hoping that one day he will be called for a job opportunity at the energy company. He is aiming for the general hand position since he did not pass his Ordinary level examination.

Tshuma is among ordinary level learners who sat for their examination in 2021 and failed dismally. Hwange is one of the districts in the province with schools which recorded a zero pass rate in the Grade 7 and Ordinary Level examinations last year.

Parents of the pupils who failed the public examinations allege that most of the schools which recorded zero passes did not have access to radio lessons and the internet to enable virtual learning.

Hwange District Residents Association says the district has been lagging behind academically for both rural and urban school learners due to lack of ICT infrastructure in schools and lack of qualified teachers just to mention a few.

“The district is at a disadvantage when it comes to receiving education opportunities. There is poor internet connectivity, no electricity and no radio frequency in most rural schools.”
Don Mwembe, Hwange District Residents Association chairman

Schools in Zimbabwe remained closed for the greater part of 2020 and 2021 as the central government placed measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. Learners in urban areas turned to virtual learning. Without proper ICT infrastructure, learners in rural areas were negatively impacted as they could not even access classes via radio frequency.  

“We had some lessons in Nambya and Tonga to accommodate Hwange learners recorded at Montrose studios in Bulawayo,” says Walter Moyo, Hwange District Schools Inspector.

Parents blame the poor pass rates on lack of a local radio frequency. Image by UNICEF

But parents argue that most pupils did not access the recorded lessons as there is no local radio frequency in Hwange.

According to UNICEF Zimbabwe, the COVID-19 pandemic came with the advantage of establishing digital networks, but the digital network was not a benefit to rural communities.

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Hwange District comprises 93 Primary schools and 37 Secondary schools, of which 10 primary and 13 Secondary are annex schools. Most satellite schools in the district suffered low pass rate due to shortage of staff and learning materials as the satellite schools are run by community members.

“We appeal to the (central) government and other relevant stakeholders to help equip our schools so that our learners can perform better in public examinations,” says Malvin Dube, a parent.

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