Friday, February 16, 2007

Why Grade 9 results were poor – Civic bodies

Why Grade 9 results were poor – Civic bodies

SEVERAL civic bodies have cited lack of proper basic school infrastructure as reason for the poor results among Grade 9 pupils who sat for examinations last year. Only 66,877 pupils of the 195,243 candidates who sat for Grade 9 school examinations last year have been selected to Grade 10.

Minister of Education, Geoffrey Lungwangwa announced the results on Wednesday when he presented a ministerial statement to Parliament. The Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) said in Lusaka yesterday that the low passing rate of the Grade 9 was due to lack of proper infrastructure in the education sector.

ZANEC executive director, Miriam Chonya said this was despite the government up-grading primary schools into basic schools. She said most of the basic schools lacked good infrastructure such as laboratories to adequately prepare Grade 9 pupils for examinations. "As long as the government does not attend to the issue of poor infrastructure in the education sector, especially basic schools, the country will continue to record poor results for Grade 9," said Ms Chonya.

She said the government was doing little to construct more high schools, which could accommodate pupils coming from basic schools. "Because of limited places in high schools, the Ministry of Education always comes up with artificial cut-off of points aimed at getting very few pupils into Grade 10 and this is not good. What we need is heavy investment in the education sector by building more high schools," said Ms Chonya.

The Secondary Schools Teachers Union of Zambia (SESTUZ) is also disappointed with this year's Grade 9 school results. SESTUZ director of research, Dexter Kabwidi also attributed the low passing rate to lack of heavy investment in the education sector by the government. “Lack of space in high schools has led to potential pupils being left out to proceed to Grade 10. "What is happening is that we have limited places in high schools, the number of basic schools were on the increase against a limited number of high schools, which only accommodate pupils from Grade 10 to 12 and this is worrying," said Mr Kabwidi in Lusaka yesterday.



At 11:43 AM , Blogger MrK said...

(PS, This comment was sent to me, I presume for publication. Professor Kyambalesa has written many books, including Socio-Economic Challenges - The African Context, and is the head of the Agenda For Change Party. MrK)

Comment relating to a Zambia Daily Mail article entitled "66,877 through to grade 10," February 15, 2007.


[Disclaimer.--This comment was initially prepared as a new-year message entitled "No Sleep for Zambian Education!" It is updated by the inclusion of a summary of the 2006 Grade 9 final examination results.]

ONCE AGAIN, we have ventured into a new year overwhelmed by socio-economic problems that are really not beyond our control. These problems include poverty, hunger, ignorance, illiteracy, disease, widespread unemployment, disadvantaged children, crime, corruption, and moral decay. Besides, civil servants are not adequately remunerated and the payments of their meager incomes or retirement benefits are sometimes delayed, education and training are not adequately catered for, the health care system cannot adequately meet the basic needs of the majority of Zambians, public infrastructure and services are deficient, taxes and interest rates are extremely high, and, among a host of other socio-economic ills, the national debt is still unsustainable.

In this commentary, I wish to highlight only one of these problems--that is, the apparent neglect of our children's education.

The incumbent Minister of Education, like his predecessors, has assumed the unpalatable task of informing the nation about one of the most serious oversights in our current educational policies:

1. The 2006 Grade 7 results are out and only 141,161 out of 293,583 pupils will proceed to Grade 8. The results represent a progression rate of 52.65% compared to 50.41% in 2005. More than 24,000 pupils did not write the examinations in 2006 compared to 21,000 in 2005.

2. Only 66,877 out of 176,263 pupils who sat the 2006 Grade 9 final examinations will proceed to Grade 10, representing a progression rate of 37.94% compared to 36.32% the previous year. And 18,980 out of 195,243 students who registered to take the Grade 9 examinations were unable to do so compared to 16,837 out of 190,389 candidates the previous year.

How long are we going to allow such a situation to continue? Where is the leadership, and where is the foresight in this endeavor? The only matters we seem to be preoccupied with are the creation of new sinecures, the sharing of high-level positions in government, and the pacification of members of society who have the potential to woo voters to support our quest to hold on to political power.

We need to provide free education through Form 5 so that all Zambian children can have the opportunity to acquire the basic tools they need in order to succeed in life. And we should permanently abolish Grades 7 and 9 elimination examinations so that poorly performing students can be phased out into skills training programs to be financed by the government if they fail Grade 10 end-of-year examinations. Abolition of Grades 7 and 9 elimination examinations would partly enable us to redress the problem of "street children" caused by ejecting poorly performing students from the educational system at a time when they are too young to face the social, economic and other facets and challenges of modern life.

Accordingly, examination fees in formal education should also be permanently abolished. Needless to say, the youth deserve the best our country can offer in terms of education and training. Fellow citizens, education is the most precious gift we can offer to the Zambian youth!

To accommodate primary school leavers in secondary schools, as well as continuing Grade 9 students, we should take the following measures: (a) provide for immediate expansion of facilities at secondary schools which do not currently have extra space for Grades 8 and 10 classes; (b) allow interested secondary school teachers destined for retirement to delay their retirements, as well as hire more of the trained teachers who are currently unemployed; and (c) step up enrolments in training programs for secondary school teachers by at least 5%.

To ensure that pupils are afforded high-quality education at every level, end-of-term tests and end-of-year examinations should continue to be administered to gauge each and every pupil's intellectual development. Moreover, parents and guardians should be furnished with end-of-term and end-of-year transcripts detailing pupils' performance on a regular basis. This would afford families an opportunity to bolster school authorities' efforts to counsel and motivate pupils.

In 1917, a philosopher by the name Alfred N. Whitehead warned about the ill-fated destiny of a society that does not make meaningful investments in its people's education that is perhaps truer today than it was during his time; he said: "In the conditions of modern life, the rule is absolute ... [a nation] which does not value [education] ... is doomed."

It should be obvious, therefore, that accessible and high-quality education can be said to be the most important investment a government can make. It is not possible for any society to succeed in the pursuit of other human endeavors without adequate pools of enlightened citizens. In general, education is among societal members' fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26(1):

"Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available, and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit."

We also need to provide for low-interest loans and merit-based scholarships for college and university students and trainees. Low-interest government loans should also be made available to working Zambian men and women wishing to pursue further studies and/or training in order to enhance their professional and general knowledge and skills.

And we should consider the prospect of absolving recipients of low-interest loans of 50% of their loan obligations if they decide to work as teachers, college instructors, lecturers, health care personnel, or agricultural researchers or extension officers.

Moreover, there is an urgent need to increase spending on higher education in order to enhance the quality of instruction, basic research and administration at the University of Zambia, the Copperbelt University, Northrise University in Ndola, and the government-funded colleges that are earmarked for conversion into universities. And we should ensure that the training to be provided in technical and vocational training institutions is designed to develop and enhance trainees’ technical knowledge and skills consistent with the changing needs of agriculture, commerce and industry.

Greater access to both education and training by citizens is critical in our quest for heightened socio-economic development. Without such access, socio-economic development would be meaningless to the majority of our people, because foreigners would take up high-wage and skill-intensive jobs, compelling most of our people to seek jobs as janitors, house servants, laborers, or security guards. Such is a situation Zambians are certainly not wishing for!

It is also important to create a self-sustaining, govern¬ment-controlled textiles company to supply low-cost school uniforms nationwide, and ensure that publishers of educational books like the Zambia Educational Publishing House, Zambia Publishing Company Publications, and the University of Zambia Press have the necessary material and financial resources to saturate the local market with low-cost reading materials. Besides, we should maintain VAT exemptions on all kinds of school supplies and reading materials in order to make them more affordable and provide greater opportunities for citizens to enhance their knowledge and skills.

To curb the brain drain that is adversely affecting the provision of quality education and other vital public services in the country, we need to take the following measures: (a) improve conditions of service, including remuneration for teachers, lecturers, trainers, researchers, and administrators in order to attract Zambians working abroad back to their Motherland; (b) include foreign-based Zambian professionals in appointments to substantive positions in the civil service; (c) provide for low-interest loans for Zambian professionals based in foreign countries to start and manage their own business undertakings within Zambia; and (d) make an earnest effort to improve socio-economic conditions through free formal education, free life-saving health care, greater food security, safer local communities, greater employment opportunities, and so forth.

The adoption of Kiswahili as the African Union’s working language--officially announced by Mozambique’s Joaquim Chissano in July 2004--poses an additional challenge in the provision of education. We, therefore, need to provide adequately for classes designed to teach the Swahili language at educational institutions nationwide. We need to do so in order to equip our people with the language skills they will need in their business and non-business pursuits across the African Union.

We should also strive to narrow what has been referred to as the "digital divide"--that is, the gap between citizens who have access to the Internet and those who do not have access to such a facility--by making the Internet available at centrally located public libraries nationwide. Provision for greater numbers of our people to gain instant access to news and information is essential in our efforts to nurture Zambia's nascent democracy. After all, we live in an information age.

The emergence of the "information superhighway" has made it possible for people worldwide to readily gain access to news, information, and goods and services from any part of the globe, and to instantaneously communicate with other people across national and regional borders. Yet, the majority of our people nationwide have no access to such an essential facility. We cannot continue to deny them the opportunity to venture into the information superhighway.

May the good Lord bless you all, and may He also bless our beloved country.



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