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AS ‘taught under trees’

2023-04-04  Albertina Nakale

AS ‘taught under trees’

Some rural school principals have questioned how advanced subsidiary students can excel when schools lack furniture and equipment, and struggle with space.

These revelations came to light after one of the school principals offering the National Senior Secondary Certificate Advanced Subsidiary (NSSCAS) in the Zambezi region narrated the difficulties management encounters when teaching AS learners with no proper furniture or facilities, especially ICT. 

The education ministry’s leadership
in the region agrees with the less-than-ideal circumstances but said other regions are thriving while facing similar challenges. 

Zambezi region has five senior secondary schools with AS subjects.

Betty Silumbu, principal at Sanjo Secondary School in Zambezi explains the dilapidated facilities, which makes it impossible to effectively offer AS to students. “The state of facilities at my school is dilapidated. As a principal of AS, I offer technical subjects, such as design and technology. 

Learners have to conduct their investigations and practicals under a tree. What do you expect at the end of the day?
This hampers learning and teaching. We cannot say the practical aspect of the competency of these learners has been achieved. We come and ask ourselves why our learners are failing.
We can’t just concentrate on the theoretical aspect of teaching. We are preparing these learners for tertiary level,” Silumbu lamented.

For learners at Sanjo Secondary School, among other rural schools, who are facing similar ICT challenges, these principals will find it cumbersome to offer AS computer science, which provides a suitable foundation for such related courses in higher education. 

Equally, being taught under a tree could simply mean the end of the road for learners intending to pursue careers or further studies in software development, systems analysis and hardware solutions at university.

Another issue she raised is sharing classrooms as libraries that are also used for teaching and learning.

“We do not have well-equipped libraries. We use classrooms as libraries. When a class period comes, the learners using the libraries are asked to move out to give others a chance. I don’t think Zambezi has a school with a well-equipped library,” she charged.

Further, she said they do not have school halls where learners can sit for examinations.

“During the 2022 exams, we had to divide learners to write in sessions due to the lack of facilities. Learners had to wait from 08h30 for the first session to finish after two hours before they go in and sit for exams.
They get tired and hungry after waiting for all these hours. Their concentration is not there anymore, and you expect learners to perform?” she asked.

Zambezi education director Joost Kawana acknowledged the poor infrastructure the schools in the region face.

“I want to agree that what the principal said is correct. We have an issue in terms of furniture and stationeries in the region. However, some other regions are performing well with poor furniture. Last year, we took our school principals to Onawa Secondary School, and the infrastructure is almost the same, but it is performing well. But of course, the state of facilities in Zambezi is not desirable and something needs to be done,” Kawana noted. 

The Zambezi education directorate has been concerned with the academic performance of the region for the last five years. 

This is basically because the regional performance, compared to the national results, has been steadily lagging, making Zambezi to be 14th in the national ranking. 

Therefore, during 2022, the directorate, in consultation with the chairperson of the Zambezi Education Forum, agreed to undertake school visits, focusing on grade 11-12 schools – and where possible, grade 10 to motivate grades 11 and 12 as they prepare for their final examinations. 

The visits covered 19 senior and combined schools, with a total of 6 158 learners reached. 

It was observed that there is a general lack of furniture in schools throughout the region. 

Former education permanent secretary Alfred Ilukena, who led the team during the school’s visit, said it is acknowledged that this is a general concern throughout the country. 

“However, other regions have found a way out of this dilemma. They have entered into an agreement with the vocational training institutions, where frames are brought to the institution while their student trainees replace the tops. In this agreement, a small fee is charged by the institution to enable them to buy the necessary materials,” he recommended. 

According to Ilukena, this has helped a lot in reducing the backlog on the availability of school furniture. 

The team suggests that the region tries this approach as a way of solving the lack of school furniture in the region. 


2023-04-04  Albertina Nakale

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