The Member of Parliament for Mbizvo Settlement Chikwinya yesterday introduced a motion calling on Education Minister Lazarus Dokora to urgently convene a national summit to look at the deteriorating education in the country as well as to reverse his directives on entrance examinations for Form One and holiday lessons.
Chikwinya said Dokora’s policies were highly unpopular with the people and affected the poor who sent their children to public schools and not the better- off who went to private schools and challenged Dokora to disclose which schools his children were going to.
He said there should not be any discrimination on charging of fees to sit for Form One places. If there was a ban, no school should be exempted.
Chikwinya said he was shocked to find a Zimbabwe Republic Police school charging pupils $50 to sit for entrance examinations for Form One.
“Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago, I was at a school here in Harare, run by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP). Now, I am saying this because ZRP is a law enforcement agent and policy pronouncements by Ministers are law upon themselves. If ZRP is allowed to wantonly disregard the same laws, what does it mean?
“Students had to pay US$50 as fees for the entrance test. This is the mischief which we actually need to inhibit. We cannot allow one particular school simply because it is owned by the law enforcement agents to then wantonly disregard the law and they also promote a culture of impunity if the schools are going to be allowed to conduct entrance tests, every school must be allowed to conduct entrance tests,” he said.
DETERIORATING STATE OF THE PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM
MR. S. CHIKWINYA: I move the motion standing in my name that this House;
DEEPLY concerned about the deteriorating state of the public education system;
EXTREMELY alarmed by the disruptive interference of the current Minister in the operations of schools;
FURTHER worried about the conflicting and inconsistent policy pronouncements particularly with regard to requirements for entry to teacher training;
WORRIED about declining pass rates at both primary and secondary school levels;
NOW, THEREFORE, recommends that Government; (i) urgently convenes a national summit on the education sector to be attended by all stakeholders in the education sector; (ii) urges the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education to reverse the ban on entrance examinations for children seeking Form One places; and (iii) to reverse the ban on holiday lessons and incentives for teachers.
MR. MARIDADI: I second.
MR. S. CHIKWINYA: Thank you Mr. Speaker. It has been quite a while since we were on recess and I would like to begin by saying, Mr. Speaker, makadii henyu?
*MR. SPEAKER: Ndaka simba.
MR. S. CHIKWINYA: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for affording me this opportunity in this august House for us to deliberate on the state of the education sector within our country.
One political legend and African leader in the name of Nelson Mandela said, ‘If you want to empower a nation, you educate the same nation.’ I rise today, concerned by the state of the education system and its lack of performance especially in the years between 2009 to date.
First of all, before I delve into the motion, I want to register my concern. While preparing for this motion, I had to obviously seek for facts from the relevant ministry. I am disappointed and want to register the lack of cooperation that we had from the ministry officials. I am not sure why they are afraid of giving us factual evidence that we will be demanding from the ministry because they continued referring us to the ministry or to the schools themselves. The schools themselves would again refer us to the ministry. That again inhibits parliamentarians to debate with facts and figures.
I implore the same minister, if he is going to be around, for him to whip his ministry officials to provide adequate data and information to parliamentarians for them to be able to debate accordingly.
Mr. Speaker, the performance of our education sector has been deteriorating and that is fact.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, Order. While the Chair notes your concern Hon. Member, we have a Research Department within Parliament. I would urge all members who want research material to be accessed from whatever quarter to kindly use the facilities in Parliament as well. That will go a long way in assisting hon. members with the research material that they so desire.
Hon. member, you may continue.
MR. S. CHIKWINYA: I take note Mr. Speaker and thank you very much for that.
Mr. Speaker, I was saying that the performance of our education sector has deteriorated. Figures which have been shown within the media sector show that the June examinations far under-performed their predecessors in both ‘O’ and ‘A’ level. Without necessarily going into the statistics, I want to delve into the interjections which the minister has put across especially in the year 2014.
There is a growing discontent among the students, teachers and parents by the number of policy interventions which the minister instigated in 2014. To begin with, the ministry at the beginning of 2014 barred vocational lessons. I will speak to the same when I speak of my plea under position number (iii).
Students could not properly prepare for their June examinations because vocational lessons were barred by the ministry in April. In my view, this made the students who were sitting for the June examinations to have inadequate time to prepare for their examinations. Consequently, the results for the June examinations show that the pass rate went down.
In position number (iii), where I call for the reversal on the ban of holiday lessons and incentives for teachers, I take note that in the July, the ministry wrote a circular to the effect that schools could only afford 12 days for vocational lessons. Whilst, yes, the ministry is responding to the plea by students and parents, the 12 days are not enough. Therefore,
I call for the total upliftment of the ban on vocational lessons during holidays.
Mr. Speaker, there is a disparity in the approach of the ministry in as far as they view private, non-governmental and public schools. Private schools seem to have an open cheque in as far as their approach and the way they do things, inconsistent with policy pronouncements by the ministry. Therefore, this makes private schools come up with better results than public schools. The majority of our students in Zimbabwe attend public schools.
I would, therefore, want to see the ministry applying the same mechanism within private and public schools. I take, for particular reference, the fact that the Ministry banned incentives for public schools. What is happening in private schools, Mr. Speaker is that a teacher is paid the nominal fee which is gazetted by the Public Service Commission, that which pertains to a teacher, but then the private schools also top-up on that. In other instances they actually double the amount. This means they will actually afford to attract the best quality teachers. They afford to incentivise their teachers and therefore the teachers give their maximum effort and therefore the students are given quality material and this actually reflective in the results as obtained in the private schools.
Whilst there is a Statutory Instrument which seeks to establish Schools Development Associations (SDAs) in public schools, the very same SDAs have their powers usurped by circulars which are run by the Ministry to the effect that teachers are not allowed to be given incentives despite parents sitting in an SDA meeting and unanimously agreeing to incentivise the teachers so that they give maximum effort to the students who are in public schools for them to equally produce better results.
One thing to note Mr. Speaker, is that incentives were not actually borne by the teachers themselves. It was the Ministry, in 2010 which came out with a Circular allowing schools to give teachers incentives. They held a general meeting where parents agreed to pay teachers’ incentives. This went a long way in improving results in the year 2010/11, but when we then put a ban to this, we have seen de-motivation of teachers. It is a public fact that our teachers are under remunerated and it is a public fact that our Government as it stands today cannot match the expectations of teachers as they equate themselves with others in the region.
Therefore it was incumbent upon parents, to intervene and unanimously agree in a meeting, the minutes recorded and forwarded to the Ministry for them to incentivise their teachers with one sole aim, the aim being to actually make sure that the quality education is forwarded to the students and students come out with the results which prepares them for any other professional activity as they enhance their curriculum. Mr. Speaker, I am not very sure, either it is lack of consultation or it is usurping of power coming from the Ministry where the Ministry is issuing out policies which are inconsistent with the expectations of the public.
It is the duty of the State to act at the legitimate expectations of its public. It is the duty of us servants of the State, Members of Parliament and Ministers included, to act to the expectation of the public. I am not very sure what or who the Minister is trying to please when he puts in policies which are inconstant with the expectations of the public. This is why in my motion I called for the reversal of the ban for incentives for teachers and let that duty be the duty of parents who are called under the auspices of the SDA where they can make a determination on the quality of education of their children.
Mr. Speaker, School Heads gathered in Victoria Falls, for the first time, they came up with resolutions, one of which they said they wanted to go and see the Head of State. This actually shows the level of frustration which the School Heads are actually going through because they are seeing what the Ministry is telling them and what the parents are expecting the School Heads to be doing is inconsistent, because of this frustration, the School Heads under the auspices of National Association of School (NASH) Heads, one of the resolutions they came up with in Victoria Falls was they wanted to go and see the Head of State and tell him their concerns with regards to the activities of the Minister.
I am in very much doubt Mr. Speaker if the Minister we are talking of today has children going through public schools, I want to challenge him, to come and prove to us Member of Parliament, that I am making this policy pronouncement equally affected because my children are also going through public school curriculum. I want to believe they are making these policy pronouncements because their children are all in private schools. I want to believe they do not even care about our children; the children of peasant farmers who are going through public sector curriculum. I want to challenge the Minister to come and prove to us that yes, he is equally acting in loco parentis he is equally acting as a person who is also affected by the same policies because his children are also going through the public sector.
Mr. Speaker, recently, the Minister- I am not very sure if he had consulted or how far widely he consulted. He came out with a suggestion that, sporting activities must be done only during the week-ends. To me, this absurd, because in my belief, education consists of the academic curriculum and sporting curriculum. If you are then going to suspend the sporting curriculum to be done only during the weekends; education without playing also results in a problem. You need to give the children time to rest. We cannot run this country on speculation. We have called upon all the Ministers to come every Wednesday to answer questions, the majority of Members of Parliament here are full of questions from their constituencies, especially to this particular Minister concerned.
I am happy Mr. Speaker to read that in The Standard of the last Sunday, the Minister was invited to a constituency in Chegutu by Hon. Nduna. I am sure Hon. Nduna is going to bear testimony, the Minister received a rude awakening of parents in Chegutu West where they expressed upon himself that whatever he was doing was inconsistent with the expectations within the education sector. I want to urge all Members of Parliament to do the same to the Minister perhaps he can appreciate the level of frustration and anger which parents are having. Parents equally know that in the next two months Grade Sevens will be writing their examinations and this is only one month to go and children were only given 12 days to prepare their examinations through vacational lessons.
Vacational lessons Mr. Speaker are designed to allow students to be able to revise. The normal curriculum is done through the 13 weeks of the normal term, then the four weeks of the vacational lesions, this is meant for students to revise. This has been the culture and practice ever since. Students who are willing to go; students who believe that they did not manage to grasp enough material need to go and revise. Teachers take them through. Parents who are willing actually assist their children and Zimbabwe has been achieving this beautiful pass rate through this system. Why are we re-inventing the wheel and actually removing bearings from the wheel. Why are we trying to invent something new which is actually proving to be a failure? I call upon the Minister to consult widely.
This is why I say in my consultation with the Teachers’ Unions, PTUZ and ZIMTA, they are calling for the Minister to convene a National Summit on the education sector to be attended by all stakeholders where they can have the opportunity to tell the Minister where actually the parents can also attend and they tell the Minister to re-align his policies with their expectations. They do not expect anything more or anything less; they expect their children to be able to be fully prepared for the examinations they will be sitting for. If you look at the A Level Geography, 2013, it was failed dismally in the country because there is inconsistence between the examiners who are setting the examinations as per the syllabus and that of the students and the teachers.
You cannot have a subject having a dismal pass rate of less than 11%, the whole country? There is something wrong in that system, this actually shows for the Minister to say he must respond accordingly, the examiners must be able to know the students are being taught. Now the syllabus is coming but the teacher is not taking the syllabus to the students because they teachers are disgruntled. Why are they disgruntled? They know that the parents are willing to pay the incentives but it is the Minister who is actually inhibiting the same.
There is one thing which is worrying me Mr. Speaker and I want to invite the Minister to come to this House at least to remove the perception within me. Why is he so harsh especially to teachers in the urban areas? The teachers in the rural areas are fully aware that their communities are not able to pay incentives and they have never demanded for that. The only expectation of teachers in the rural areas is that can you please give us electricity, may you please give water, this has been their cry, but teachers in the urban listened to the parents who have come to a meeting and said we are able to give you incentives. The Minister is actually inhibiting that process, to me he is trying to ruralise the urban community.
Mr. Speaker, the first week of October or the second week there about, Grade Seven results will be out after having been set some time in September. You can imagine, because the Minister has banned entrance tests, it is the dream of every parent to send their children to a school of their choice. Personally I want my child to go to Kutama College because it has produced people, some of whom have become leaders – [HON. MEMBER: Like President Mugabe.] – like President Mugabe.
I know that is what you want to hear – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear] – so it means on the day the Grade 7 results are going to be out, I am going to rush. I want to send my child to Kutama. I have to drive from Kwekwe to Kutama and obviously the people from Mashonaland West would have filled the vacancies. My child, even with good results, will find the people of Mashonaland West having filled the vacancies. My second choice is Gokomere. I have to drive to Gokomere and my child will ask me, baba dzakakwana here? First, dzirimo here uye kana dzirimo dzakakwana here?
The provision of entrance tests was meant to actually cushion this hectic movement which is expected on the day Grade 7 results come out – [HON. MEMBER: It was a fund raising project.] – the entrance tests Mr. Speaker, once my child passes this entrance test and the conditions being that he is supposed to come up with these point at Grade 7, he is automatically registered for Form 1 at that particular school and therefore there is no rush on the day of the results.
I appreciate Mr. Speaker that the Minister was trying to provide a solution where schools were now taking these entrance tests to become fund raising events but asked in this august House why he is allowing that to happen, where schools are inviting thousands of students to sit for entrance tests where they only want 120 students, he said the Government norm when inviting interviews for personnel in the Ministry, it is a maximum of 3 people for one position. Therefore, I would expect the Ministry to provide such policy pronouncements that if a school has got 120 positions, maximum number of students who can be invited for entrance tests are three times the number of people who are going to be accommodated. That you have put in a solution which in my view actually favours both sides.
Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago, I was at a school here in Harare, run by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP). Now, I am saying this because ZRP is a law enforcement agent and policy pronouncements by Ministers are law upon themselves. If ZRP is allowed to wantonly disregard the same laws, what does it mean? Students had to pay US$50 as fees for the entrance test. This is the mischief which we actually need to inhibit. We cannot allow one particular school simply because it is owned by the law enforcement agents to then wantonly disregard the law – [HON. MEMBER: It is a private school.] – and they also promote a culture of impunity – [HON. MEMBER: Rova ipapo] – if the schools are going to be allowed to conduct entrance tests, every school must be allowed to conduct entrance tests.
If schools are going to be allowed to conduct vacation lessons, every school must be allowed to do that. The law must apply uniformly and equally to everyone. The fact that a few who are choosing to be brave end up going against the law, they then charge exhorbitant fees because they are taking a risk and you are now exposing parents to be charged 5 times what they were supposed to be charged in an ordinary session of an entrance test.
Therefore Mr. Speaker, whilst debate degenerates into regression of political parties on members from their political parties and then we tend to dig in, Mr. Speaker, this is education for our children – [HON. MEMBERS: Yes.] – we need to put up a sober mindset on what is good for our children – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] – and I believe dialogue will give us the solution. The Minister must actually visit each and every district or province and dialogue with students, teachers, teachers’ unions and parents. He will come up with a solution which actually addresses our education sector. Otherwise as things stand, I challenge the Minister to give us better results than what we had in 2013 and mark my word, we are going to have worse-off results in 2014 November. The same with what we had in June of 2014. Thank you Mr. Speaker.