The performance gap between these schools continues to widen with each public examination, forcing parents and other stakeholders to seek answers about contributory factors. But it’s not rocket science – most experts agree that the high pass rates achieved by church-run and government boarding schools are down to discipline, dedicated and qualified teachers, adequate learning materials and an environment conducive to studying.
Authorities at mission schools, parents and teachers’ unions believe standards at church-run schools will continue to dominate their rivals for as long as resources are not equitably distributed to schools throughout the country.
Former Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, David Coltart, said mission schools had better pass rates than government schools partly because they enjoy better funding from churches and parents.
He was quick to point out that there were also some mission schools that performed worse than government schools, though generally church run institutions had an upper hand.
“Government schools have been poorly funded during the past years, hence the poor performance by children,” Coltart said.
The Secretary General of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Raymond Majongwe, blamed poor results on indiscipline among students at non-mission schools and on the large numbers of unqualified teachers at council and other schools.
“Children at church-run schools also have enough study time and materials. The teaching staff complement is 100 percent qualified and experienced,” said Majongwe.
He also attributed the high pass rate at these institutions to the conducive learning environment and the examination-based teaching approach adopted by mission schools and some government boarding schools. “These top flying schools teach children to pass examinations,” he added.
A Harare parent, Godfrey Siwela, attributed the success story at mission schools to adequate resources such as food, learning material and a well remunerated staff.
“Children at mission and some boarding schools attend lessons on a full stomach. Teachers are well paid and dedicate their time to assisting children pass,” Siwela said.
While boarding and mission school teachers dedicate their working hours to teaching, many of those at low paying schools are engaged in private businesses to supplement their poor salaries.
Poorly paid teachers lack commitment to their duties and the majority of them spend most of their working hours selling sweets, biscuits and other edibles to children, while their working conditions in general are not attractive.
Government and council school teachers earn an average $260 per month, excluding transport and housing allowances – despite the poverty datum line standing at over $534 per month for a family of five.
The Bishop of the Anglican Church Harare Diocese, Chad Gandiya, said mission schools obtained high pass rates because of child discipline, conducive learning environment and dedication to work by the teaching staff, the majority of whom are members of the church.
“Several of our schools have won The Secretary Award of excellence and we lift the performance bar among our learning institutions. In fact we are working towards a 100 percent pass rate at all our schools,” said Gandiya.
Parents interviewed by The Zimbabwean blamed economic hardships for the poor performance at non-church run schools.
They said after school hours children would be engaged in household chores such as fetching water and firewood while others would be helping to provide for the family through street vending.
“Children no longer have spare time for studies as they are busy fending for their families after school. Government was also failing to boost morale of teaching through attractive salaries and other benefits,” said Moses Makwara of Mufakose.
Peter Steyl of the Commercial Farmers Union said boarding school children had more discipline as they lived under direct control of school authorities. He attributed poor discipline among day school children to peer pressure and laxity on the part of parents and guardians.
“Outside school hours some day school children engage in activities that have nothing to do with education. This make them lose focus on their studies, leading to a high failure rate,” said Steyl.
Another key factor is the break-down of the family unit which has seen many school children left without parental supervision and guidance towards homework and other studies.Post published in: News