Friday, 26 March 2021

FORM ONE PUPILS STRANDED

SCORES of 2020 Grade Seven graduates were this week left stranded after failing to secure places at high schools that only enrolled pupils with flying colours for Form One.

The trend, which is well pronounced in boarding schools in outlying and remote areas, places pupils in those areas at the risk of dropping out of school given the long distances they now need to traverse to the next schools.

The agony is more unbearable to parents who participated in the construction of the same schools that are now demanding a certain number of points for a child to be enrolled.

At St Theresa Mission School in Makoni, crisis management marathon meetings between school authorities and parents were the order of the day for weeks since the release of Grade Seven results in January.

A disgruntled parent whose child is struggling to be enrolled at a day school expressed concern over the development.

“Schools are denying locals access to basic education citing issues of cut-off units at Grade Seven. However, this is now forcing our kids to walk more than 12km to the nearest school.

“That is a burden to the local community and it actually exposes these kids to different forms of abuse. Some are being forced to abandon school, hence the high number of drop outs being recorded in the country,” she said.

St Theresa headmistress, Ms Euphrasia Mudiwa, explained the school’s position.

“We opened the boarding facility four years ago and boarders took half of the space that day scholars had been occupying over the years. That now means that some locals will not get places, even as day scholars, since we cannot accommodate them all anymore.

“This has been a thorny issue. We have raised this issue at almost every Annual General Meeting during the last four years but a solution remains elusive. We are even trying to consult the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in search of a solution,” said Ms Mudiwa.

According to a survey conducted by The Manica Post, some boarding schools in Chimanimani and Mutare districts are also in the same predicament.  At Vengere High School in Rusape, they have a waiting list of over 180 students looking for Form One places. The school has already enrolled five classes.

Manicaland Provincial Education director, Mr Edward Shumba, said while boarding schools are competitive, average students can still be accommodated as day scholars at the same institutions.

“We expect the pupil to be part of that school at least as a day scholar. The whole idea being that locals must also benefit from the institution’s existence in their area. For example, Kriste Mambo — a girls’ high school — used to have space for local boys,” he said.

The National Association of Secondary Heads (NASH) president, Mr Arthur Maphosa, bemoaned failure by a huge number of prospective Form Ones to secure places at schools of their choices, arguing that both boarding and day schools can accommodate them.

Mr Maphosa said it would be unfair to send those who failed to secure Form One places back to Grade Seven.

“If they could not secure boarding places, parents should enrol them in day schools while the infrastructural capacity of boarding schools is being upgraded. Schools are required to observe the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 guidelines to stop the spread of the virus in schools.

“Authorities need to be flexible and adapt to ensure the safety of every child,” said Mr Maphosa. Manica Post

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