TEACHERS unions have decried the decline in numbers of learners who registered for examinations with the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec), a development which has been attributed to surging poverty, amid calls for the government to take responsibility and curb the damage which is likely to have long-term implications for the country’s future.
Speaking to The NewsHawks, Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary for research Josiphat Gwezhira decried the registration decline. He said the findings show that, cumulatively since 2019, around 30 000 students nationwide have failed to register for the Ordinary Level examinations alone.
“Such figures are appallingly low and may have dire consequences for the country’s outcomes going forward. The number of students who have failed to sit for examinations is actually equivalent to the size of 30 big schools. Most parents cannot raise money to pay exam fees for their children.
“While the number of subjects to be sat for stands at 10, most parents can’t even raise enough money for their children to write five subjects and in some cases you would find out that parents are pleading with schools to make arrangements for children to write two subjects per sitting,” he said. Gwezhira attributed the situation to the Covid-19 pandemic’s negative impact on incomes, among other crippling economic challenges.
“Due to exchange rate disparities, wages have also gone down significantly, to the extent that even workers on full-time jobs like teachers cannot make ends meet anymore. The hardships have been further worsened by the fact that there continues to exist a huge mismatch between salaries and incomes being earned by civil servants,” he said.
The research officer called on the government to urgently inject abundant resources such as those declared through Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s budget surpluses towards funding poor students who lack the money for registration.
“While we appreciate the efforts being made by the government under the Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam), we urge the government to do much more in assisting struggling learners to register for exams,” Gwezhira added.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) secretary-general Robson Chere also concurred that rising poverty has pushed children out of schools.
“It is the poverty that has affected both parents and even teachers which is the leading cause for the drop in enrollment at all education levels. Generally, current wages nationwide are not commensurate with the cost of living and this is pushing even professionals like teachers into vending. “This unfortunately has resulted in a deteriorating education sector and the inevitable collapse of education in Zimbabwe. In equal measure, the government has been insincere in its conduct, resulting in a grossly underfunded education sector which is directly linked to the decline in enrollment, especially Ordinary Level,” he said. — STAFF WRITER