Children’s right to education violated
MANY Zimbabweans have been wondering against all wonders in the world what the hell Primary and Secondary Education minister, Lazarus Dokora, is really trying to achieve with all the zany policies he is always dreaming up each and every night. I am one of those who are so baffled by the man’s knee-jerk policies. At this rate Zimbabweans now have every reason to fear mornings for they do not know what other danger this prolific dreamer would have harvested from his fertile dreams.
Last week there was chaos at all secondary schools around the country after Dokora decreed that enrolment of all Form One students should be done in one day. Before anyone had made head and tail of what the supposedly honourable minister was trying to achieve, the chap was back with another shocking directive . . . that pupils at all primary schools who are currently bewildered with the current four basic subjects, would have an additional six subjects starting next year.
In the past, the same man has also decreed that O-Level students should go on industrial attachment. He has also banned extra lessons for pupils and school civvies days among other things.
I think the only explanation there could be is that here is a minister who left school several decades ago, who is so detached from reality on the ground and is therefore seeking relevance in a fast changing world.
For several weeks now, I have been doing some sleuth work, just trying to get Dokora’s Twitter handle, his Facebook account, his Skype name, or his LinkedIn profile just to confirm that we are not saddled with a Rip van Winkle, that proverbial chap who slept for a good 20 years and when he finally woke up, wanted to turn the clock back to his time . . . someone who suffers from a mental condition called sentimental anarchism.
I have just one suggestion for Dokora. Instead of wasting his precious nights dreaming of a raft of more mind-boggling directives, one simple directive that would make him several folds more popular with both school children and open-minded parents would be banning schools from violating the country’s Constitution by setting maximum entry points for entrance into secondary education.
I noticed that last week several schools, including Mutendi High in Masvingo, placed clear-worded adverts in the media announcing that they were not going to entertain any applications for Form One places from any pupils that got more than six points in their Grade Seven examinations.
Maybe we need to go back to the basics. What are schools for? Are they not there to educate children? So what Constitutional provision do these schools apply when they so wantonly discriminate against innocent children?
I think it is high time parents started suing some of these schools. Even the most borderline of lawyers can win these cases because all they have to do is prove beyond reasonable doubt that naked discrimination is obtaining and that this is in flagrant violation of the Constitution.
Just like the headmaster of Mweyamutsvene Mission School in Masvingo who allowed his wife to bar an orphaned pupil from sitting for his O-Level exams because his grandmother was too poor to afford shoes for him, headmasters at these elitist schools, together with their entire boards, should just be peremptorily dismissed for they pose grave danger to the country’s education system.
This system vitiates the whole idea of having schools in the first place. Schools are not places for children to just grow up, but to grow up while learning.
What this discrimination does in reality is reduce levels of self-esteem in those little minds. It only makes them even more diffident later in life. It makes them feel like second-class human beings. It drains from them that fighting spirit that has made some of the great names on this planet.
Are these not the same strategies that the whites used to convince even old men with ashen hair and beard that they were boys in perpetuity?
Why should schools be allowed to shirk their primary responsibility in broad daylight? Schools are there to impart education to children. Full stop! So why then should they be allowed to cherry-pick on who to educate and who not to? Every child who comes for enrolment at a school should be taught to the best of these schools’ ability. Schools of the ilk of Mutendi are worse that those that existed in colonial Rhodesia! They exist to serve no useful purpose other than of preserving their lofty egos at the expense of future generations.
This is different from a company that has to hire only the top-drawer performers for it to achieve great results. It is all about making sincere effort to get the best results from even the otherwise below average.
In fact I am of the view that the formula that is currently used to come up with the so-called best schools in this country is dangerously flawed. The whole process is rigged right from the start when some elitist schools arrogate themselves the privilege to choose the crème de la crème of pupils, chaperone them around with minimal effort for a few years then go on to shamefully claim that they give the best education in this country.
If a school takes in a “hopeless” pupil who got 24 points at Grade Seven and in the four years (s)he is under its tutelage, it is able to transform that pupil to such an extent that they come up with 10 As at O-Level, should it not naturally be ranked as the best school in the whole country?
It should not just be a question of the school’s pass rate, but what these schools actually contributed towards the academic achievements of the pupils.
Starting next year, I for one, would not want to hear any of the rigmarole about the top ten or top 100 schools if the same old criminal formula continues to be used. Until Monte Cassino, Kriste Mambo, St Dominic Convent, John Tallach et al are given those below average pupils at Form One and they are able to transmogrify them from intellectual dwarfs to intellectual Goliaths, to me those schools would remain just master fraudsters that are selling snake oil and bottled smoke. Sadly, there are so many parents that are ready to buy.
If I go around farms buying the best cattle and after a month I take my herd for display at the Harare Agricultural Show and all my bulls win top prizes, even in the private forum of my warped conscience, can I boast that I am the beast cattle breeder in the country?
The policy of affirmative action in school should be extended to the education sector as well. Any child who lives within a certain distance from these elitist school should have a natural right to enrol at these schools, for as long as their low passes could allow them to enter secondary education at any other school and they can afford the fees.
I am also actually shocked that 35 years into Independence, there are some urban schools that have the gall of openly saying they cannot accept students coming from rural schools for fear of lowering their standards. Standards, my foot! What standards are these schools talking of? They fear lowering the very high standards of laziness among their teaching staff?
If Cuthbert Chiromo, the headmaster of Mzilikazi High School had refused to enrol me for my Advanced Level studies at his school because I had done my Ordinary Level studies at Mandevhani School in rural Chirau, how different would I have been from my forbearers who were denied the right to decent education simply because of their skin colour?
There are also some things that flabbergast me. On the very rare occasions that I have had the courage to go to my children’s schools for the so-called consultations, the attitudes of some of the people whom I has been introduced to as teachers are worse than that of night club bouncers and kombi crews… honestly why does someone become a teacher when they do not want to teach in the first place?
Teachers should do their job, which is teaching. If a teacher fails to deliver on what (s)he is being paid to do, disciplinary charges bordering on incompetence should be raised, and they get dismissed. This is a sure way of ensuring that the education sector is never a safe haven for fraudsters who want to trick a living from Treasury.
I wonder what those so-called job appraisals are all about if a teacher has a class for the whole year and none of the pupils show any improvement at all.
In this country there are tens of thousands of teachers who cannot remember even a single pupil who they sincerely helped to pass, yet they are drawing a salary every month for years, even having the effrontery of threatening to go on strike if the government appear to have doubts about paying them annual bonuses. Bonuses for what?
If a teacher wakes up everyday knowing that if by the end of the year 50 percent of her or his pupils fail (s)he automatically loses her or his job; or that if 40 percent of her or his pupils show no meaningful progress, her or his salary falls commensurately, real teachers will perform and pretenders will find somewhere else to lurk around far away from the education sector.
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