George Maponga in Masvingo
The Limpopo Valley in southern Chikombedzi has gained notoriety for perennial appalling pass rates in final examinations, be it Grade 7 or Ordinary Level.
Tucked between Runde and Mwenezi rivers, the Limpopo Valley continues to be haunted by poor academic results in primary and secondary schools scattered across this expansive arid plain.
The valley, which is home to the Shangaan people, is among the remotest and least developed areas in the country in terms of schools and other services like clinics.
The available schools are far apart, while teachers are in short supply as most qualified educators shun the area owing to the absence of modern facilities like clinics, reliable communication services and good roads.
While the story of the Limpopo Valley is that of general despair caused by underdevelopment, the education sector is in urgent need of attention.
Notwithstanding the effects of the rampant cross-border migration to neighbouring South Africa by those in the primary school going age in the Limpopo Valley, the poor pass rates at schools in the area are increasingly casting a huge shadow on its future development.
The poor pass rates have been more pronounced in primary schools, a situation communities in the area want addressed as a matter of urgency.
There are growing fears that the Limpopo Valley might be left behind as the whole nation joins the bandwagon in realising growth consistent with an upper middle income economy come 2030 unless the education sector in the area is overhauled.
Chiredzi South National Assembly Member Cde Kallisto Gwanetsa says there is urgent need to address the appalling educational standards in the Limpopo Valley.
He says the area will remain behind unless the poor pass rates in schools are arrested.
In 2018 four schools namely Chilugwi, Dhafi, Pukupela and Dakale Primary Schools recorded zero percent pass rate at the Grade 7 final examinations.
Three years before in 2015, three primary schools namely Mugiviza, Samu and Dake also recorded zero percent pass rate at Grade 7.
Maose and Dakale schools also both recorded zero percent pass rate in 2017 out of all the 22 primary schools in the Limpopo Valley.
While there was a slight improvement in 2019 when only Samu Primary School recorded zero percent pass rate at Grade 7, the average pass rate for all the schools in the Limpopo Valley remained on the downside.
“There is urgent need for intervention to address the poor pass rate in our schools especially at primary level where some institutions have been recording zero percent pass rate over the past three to four years,” said Cde Gwanetsa.
“While the situation marginally improved during last year’s Grade 7 final examinations the picture remains gloomy because the pass rate is still very low and something has to be done very soon.”
Cde Gwanetsa said the first move to address the problem was to deploy Shangaan-speaking teachers to schools in the area.
“The whole problem starts at ECD level where normally the language of instruction has to be the mother tongue when teaching children.
‘‘In our case there are not enough Shangaan teachers at ECD levels so most pupils are taught by people who cannot speak Shangaan meaning that such students are destroyed at foundation level, hence the zero percent pass rate frequency at most schools come Grade 7 final examinations.”
The Chiredzi South legislator said engagements with community leaders have showed that the shortage of Shangaan teachers was the biggest factor behind the appalling Grade 7 results.
‘‘Our hope is that more teachers are deployed here beginning at ECD level so that our children have a solid foundation. Unless that issue is rectified the problem of poor pass rates will continue to haunt the Limpopo Valley,” said Cde Gwanetsa.
He expressed hope that the situation will be addressed with more local and foreign universities in neighbouring countries offering degree programmes in Shangaan.
“We have universities such as Great Zimbabwe, Midlands State University and even Venda University across the border in South Africa that are now offering degree programmes in Shangaan and it is our hope that these people will come back home and help improve education in their land of birth,” said Cde Gwanetsa.