Hwange Learners Walk Over 10km to Write Exams Amid COVID-19

With only a few schools registered as examination centres in Hwange district, examination time is a scary affair for pupils who have to walk over 10km through a wild animal infested bush.

Tehila Ndlovu (17) wakes up during the wee hours of the day as she prepares to go to school. In her worn-out tennis shoes, she readies to walk a 10-kilometer-long journey through the thick, wild animal infested bush. She cleaves onto a plastic paper bag with stationery—a pen, ruler, book and a pencil as she heads to write her final examinations.

Tehila, of Lubangwe 56 village under Hwange Rural District Council, is among learners who have no choice but to walk long distances to their examination centres owing to inadequate examination centers.

The Hwange district Primary and Secondary Education officer Walter Dube says the shortage of examination centers is because of a lack of registered schools in the respective rural areas.

“Most of these schools in the rural area are satellite also known as annex schools hence they are unregistered as examination centers. They also don’t meet the requirements of being an examination center,” he says.

Hwange district has 21 annex schools which are only convenient to conduct class lessons.

“In this district we have schools that have been annexing for 10 years and the government has been working to register the schools so they also become examination centers,” says Walter Dube, Hwange district Primary and Secondary Education officer.

Secondary school learners from Lubangwe village walk 10 kilometers to the nearest examination center with registration under Matetsi Secondary school, while primary school learners from Woodlands resettlement land walk seven kilometers to the nearest examination Centre under Breakfast Primary School or to Nyongolo Primary School.

A local Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Pastor Joseph Ndlovu from Lubangwe says the long distances which the learners walk are risky, as they often encounter wild animals.

“Hwange rural communities are in areas where humans and wildlife coexist, but the animals are a threat to human life, it’s sad and frightening to see young ones walking such long distances where wild animals are prone, just to write an examination,” says Joseph Ndlovu, SDA Pastor.

“As a community leader, I have taken the responsibility of walking the learners through the bushes to at least to where I think they are safe,” he says.

Emmanuel Shoko, chair of the Matetsi Secondary School development committee says the lack of examination centers has seen some learners dropping out of school without writing their examinations.

“Learners drop out of school just before examination as parents think it’s too risky for their children,” says Shoko.

Hwange rural district Matetsi ward Councilor, Bernard Mhlanga, has appealed to the government to upgrade the satellite schools and turn them into registered schools which will be conducive for examining pupils.

“The government should establish examination centers within the satellite schools. Now with the global pandemic of COVID-19 with us, learners go to school in batches and in groups, this is unsafe,” says Mhlanga.

The district so far has 24 registered secondary schools and 82 registered primary schools operating under the Hwange district council.

Meanwhile, the Chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on education Honourable Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga says the government should improve the satellite schools to benefit learners from these Hwange rural schools.

Most satellite schools in the district also suffer from lack of adequate human resources and learning materials as they are supported by communities surrounding them. Although there are several satellite schools that have been established in the district to improve the education system.

In January 2020, a young girl was trampled to death by a bull elephant when she was coming from school, a situation which has worsened existing fears among the villagers.

“Problematic animals such as elephants and lions have become a menace in the communities; children are not spared by these animals. We sometimes try to scare the animals the traditional way by making fires to protect our families, but it’s not effective. Therefore, responsible authorities should help us curb this problem,” says Chief Hwange.

In a report on environment and tourism on elephant management in Hwange, the Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Hon Mangaliso Ndlovu said the high elephant population beyond the ecological carrying capacity and high human population has led to the increase of human-wildlife conflict.

In August 2020, the Zimbabwe National Parks embarked on awareness campaigns on educating the public on the dangers of human wildlife to help in curbing the crisis in Hwange rural areas.

Source: The Citizen Bulletin

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