The Herald (Harare)

8 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Time to Think of the Girl Child

opinion

The October-November 2012 Ordinary Level Zimsec examination results are out and there is agony and pain. Only 31 767 pupils out of the 172 698, who sat for the 2012 managed to score five or more subjects and this is not a good reflection of the country's education sector. As statistics released by the examinations body have shown, the trend has been repeated over the years and hence it is time to come up with measures that will improve the performance of both Ordinary and Advanced level candidates in the country.

Surely, a solution needs to be found soonest.

Hidden in this general failure of students sitting for the public examinations is the continued low numbers of female students who are passing the exams. The numbers lag behind the male candidates. The girl child is playing second fiddle to the boy child.

According to Zimsec statistics of a total of 268 854 candidates that set for the public examinations last year, only 14 198 females passed the examinations with at least five subjects Grade C or better compared to 17 565 males. This represents a mere 16.4 percent females had passed compared to their male counterparts who recorded 20, 4 percent.

I am sure the trend is repeated at Advanced Level where already the entry female numbers are low. Consequently the trend will be reflected in tertiary institutions in the country. Analysts say the country's universities and colleges despite a deliberate effort to increase female students continue to reflect these trends which is a recipe for disaster. It is true to say over the years and despite the Government's good intentions, Zimbabwe has failed to improve on the performance of females in schools. As such it is important that Zimbabwe's education sector devises ways of improving the performance of female pupils in schools. With education still the getaway to success for most people in the country, it means only few females are getting an opportunity in life. This in itself will help to perpetuate the gender imbalances that exist within the country's social and economic spheres. This calls for concerted efforts to ensure that female students are taught not only of the value of education and that the community give the girl child the same resources and opportunity to build own feature.

It is important that people understand that the low number of female candidates making it through our schools have nothing to do with women's mental capabilities but mostly on the opportunities and gender duties that denied them an opportunity to study and thus excel in examinations.

Girls learning at rural schools are most affected as household chores are mostly reserved for the fairer sex while the boys are discovering the world and reading books. This needs to change if Zimbabwe is to move with times and do justice to the various regional and international conventions, protocols and declarations that seek to promote gender equality that the country has signed. It is also critical that we start early and ensure that the school environment is level. Parents need to ensure that the girl child is given enough time to interact with her books just like what is given to her brother. Gender analysts say there is a need for deliberate effort to improve the performance of girls in schools. These should include encouraging girls to take up science and commercial subjects that have remained a preserve of the boy child. The few girls that have been taking sciences have helped to perpetuate the myth that females are less capable than their male counterparts and this is not good for gender equality. Zimbabwe's noble intentions to achieve gender parity in the country will never be realised if commercial and science subjects remain a male preserve.

Females that succeeded in sciences and business should be used to inspire young girls to do well in these areas. School should use these achievers examples in removing career stereotypes in woman at the earliest possible time. If Zimbabwe is to do justice to Sadc Declaration on Gender and Development and the National Gender Policy that seek to address gender imbalances in all spheres and levels of life, there is a need for the country to ensure girls are equally represented in all subjects and levels. It is, however, critical for society to be reminded that uplifting the girl child should never be done at the expense of the boy child who also requires encouragement to ensure the country pass rate increases. Uplifting the female child at the expense of their male counterparts may force males to go on the defensive hence thwart efforts to realise gender equality.

In fact, Zimbabwe has already set the bar high as one of the most literate states in Africa and we can let that sleep away because of failed planning. The positions that Zimbabwe has achieved in literacy rates and provision of education should spur the nation to greater heights. Government must also increase allocation of funds to school for the provision of amenities to facilitate female learning in the schools and that for parents to make education of their children balanced across gender by promoting and recognizing importance of educating girls.

Time has come to improve the national pass rate.

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