COVID-19 Exposes Rural Folk Inequalities As Grade 7 Performance Tumbles

The closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year continues to expose more inequalities that rural folk are subjected to. This year the Grade 7 results in rural Matabeleland South province dismally dropped.

Several schools recorded a zero per cent pass rate, including Riverblock, Koodoovale, Driehoke and Zindele primary schools. This has been attributed to non-attendance and lack of resources to facilitate online lessons.

Over the years, the pass rate in the rainbow province, particularly in the Gwanda district, has been low. Some of the schools are satellite schools whose enrollment is low and have no adequate resources.

When schools closed for the better part of the year in 2020, pupils, especially in exam classes, had to undergo online or radio lessons from national radio broadcasters. The communities today in rural Gwanda district have no network; this stalls their growth in tapping on the technology spectrum.

A parent from Bengo in Gwanda South, Uratile Nleya, says they have, over the years, rallied the government on the need to bridge the digital gap through the availing network, but all their efforts have gone down the drain.
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“For years and years, we have requested for the improvement of the network in the area, but our MP Abednico Ncube has done nothing about it as we still have to hunt for network spots that are not easily accessible distance wise.”

“This has affected our children who were writing Grade 7 as unlucky ones will have to travel long distances to get to the network while at the same time having household chores waiting for them which also affects their study time,” says Uratile Nleya, a parent.

A Grade 7 pupil Fortunate Ndlovu from Mntandewenema Primary School, who got 30 units, says a lack of resources limited his capabilities.

“I learn in the rural areas, and even before the closure of schools, we had challenges in terms of the book ratio, which made it worse when schools closed, and we were left with totally nothing. We don’t have adequate network coverage in our area for radio or internet connections which means we did not learn during the closure of schools and only managed to do so when schools opened for a little, but it was too late as examinations had already arrived,” says the pupil.

On the contrary, a Grade 7 pupil Lorraine Zondo from Gwanda urban at My Cazalet Primary School, who passed with six units and has already secured a Form One place at Manama High School, says the effectiveness of online learning helped them a lot.

“I managed to participate in Radio Zimbabwe’s radio programmes, and our teachers conducted online lessons on WhatsApp. We would later research more on the internet,” says Zondo.

Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education director of communication Taungana Ndoro acknowledges that rural schools continue to be badly affected by the network. He, however, says they are yet to ascertain the statistics as per province.

“We are yet to release statistics as per province as we are still in the assessment stages. However l can confirm that rural schools and mostly in the Matabeleland region produced low results mostly because some had no data, electricity and network,” says Ndoro.

He says the ministry is working to engage the Ministry of ICT and the Ministry of Energy in addressing these long-standing challenges.

Source: The Citizen Bulletin

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