OPINION: Improved results but more challenges

Phiri Cawe

According to the Education Department, the class of 2019 registered an overall pass percentage of 81.3%, which is an improvement of 3.1% over the performance of the 2018 cohort and is the highest pass percentage recorded in the past 25 years.

This must be celebrated. And considering disturbances like the load shedding experienced during the examinations, the matriculants must be congratulated on persevering and passing their exam. That said, on paper the results are great but is it like that in reality?

And I question whether we should trust the matric results and if there is any value attached to them?

I am not sure and it will take me time to wrap my head around matric results. But I am happy that our children are passing with distinction.

As the minister was standing on the podium announcing the results, I was deep in thought about children in the rural villages. I thought of my village that has had no high school since the beginning of last year.

According to villagers, the school was closed down because it was not performing well and attributed the poor performance to the lack of leadership at school. This, they said, had led to children opting to go to other schools and left a bad mark on rural education.

What the villagers did not divulge, though, was whether the school was well resourced or not.

I also wonder whether, amid the great results, there were schools that had no passes at all. What about those which registered a less than 20% pass rate? What are the interventions prepared for such schools?

The truth is, poorly performing schools were badly resourced.

Township or rural school will never match the private schools.

Teachers are challenged at the public schools. Classes have up to 45 to 50 pupils in one class while in private schools you have 10 to 16 pupils in a class.

These are problems the government needs to fix. Teachers at public schools are not only facing huge numbers in class but crime, unruly children and parents who couldn’t care less and see schools as dumping places for their children.

The current results are good. But if only 28% qualify for varsity, I have my doubts.

Among the challenges that some of the pupils will be facing are money or university entrance. More will drop out not because they want to, but because their circumstances will force them to.

Some are already looking for jobs that are not even there for the most qualified people.

Then that leads us to question the value of the education we always encourage our children to have. I will suggest that they join the Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges so they can learn practical skills and acquire scarce skills in the technical fields.

As for those who have not been successful this time round, let’s stand together and encourage them to pick up their heads and continue with their studies. They should know that failing is not the end of the world. May there be bursaries for all the varsity qualifiers so they could continue. We need no drop-outs for we have a lot of amapharaphara looming around the streets. Education-wise, we have a long road to go and match the needed standards.