28 September 2012

Zimbabwe: Education - Putting the Cart Before the Horse

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"It is the funding that is needed to maintain our standards," he said.

However, Coltart's view was contradicted by remarks carried in a state-run daily this week in which Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council (Zimsec) public relations manager Ezekiel Pasipamire said they had withheld 'O' Level results for a private college in order to maintain quality.

"To maintain the credibility of our examination system, Zimsec has adopted a zero tolerance to malpractices particularly by private centres," said Pasipamire. "Those are the ones that give us a headache every time there are examinations by not adhering to the standard examination procedures."

Pasipamire warned Zimsec would de-register such centres to maintain good examination standards.

Zimbabwean academic Brian Raftopoulos, a senior research mentor at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, said the country's education system continues to decline in the wake of insufficient efforts from the coalition government to resuscitate it.

"After 2000, in the context of the more general political crisis, a whole series of highly-politicised problems emerged in the educational sphere," said Raftopoulos.

"These problems have centred around the disciplining of teachers for their support for the MDC, the militarisation of youth centres, politicisation of the university entrance system as well as the struggle over the curriculum -- in particular the teaching of history," he said.

There is also a problem of political interference where army commanders, ministers, politicians and other influential people now enter colleges and universities through the back door, compromising standards.

Former University of Zimbabwe vice-chancellor Graham Hill was forced to resign in 2002 following revelations he had facilitated the enrolment of Zanu PF Manicaland governor Chris Mushowe for a post-graduate programme in 1995 when he did not qualify.

The localisation of setting and marking of exams caused serious leakages of exam papers, mix-ups and errors in question papers and certificates.

The late Edmund Garwe resigned as Education minister in 1996 after his daughter was found in possession of exam papers she had accessed after he had taken them home.

However, University of Zimbabwe (UZ) vice-chancellor Levi Nyagura, widely criticised for presiding over the UZ's decline, is optimistic the education system would return to its former glory. The UZ has now been enrolling students who do not have 'A' Level English, but have 15 points with passes in subjects like Shona, Ndebele, Divinity and Geography.

"Zimbabwe's education is on the rise again and we want to safeguard society by providing quality students who will be effective in industry," said Nyagura.

"At this institution, we aim to bring back our former glory and for the first time, we have enrolled female law students with 14 points and have As in 'O' Level English, as well as 61 first-year female faculty of medicine students."

Higher and Tertiary Education minister Stan Mudenge said the quality of education remained high despite years of deterioration.

"We are now number two in Africa according to UN literacy levels and we want to maintain those high levels," said Mudenge.

The survey shows Zimbabwe has a 92% literacy rate while Tunisia tops with 98%, although the reality is that the quality of the education system has been compromised.

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