Monday 19 April 2021
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newsday - 2 month ago

Mathema masks education mediocrity

Stir The Pot: Paidamoyo Muzulu ZIMBABWE sets its own standards. It is not bound by international norms. This is the age of making our own reality. In the last decade, Zimbabwe has created new standards for what unemployment is. Through the dubious formula, Zimbabwe today is among the top countries not fighting unemployment. Our unemployment level is below 10%, according to the national statistical agency. The irony of the low unemployment rate is that the government is busy saying it wants to create jobs, secure investment, build new industries. The question is: Who are the jobs being created for? It becomes clear that Zimbabwe has masked its unemployment figures in order to hide the rot, a comatose economy amid the plunder by political elites and their hangers-on. The government says everyone who is economically active is employed. This includes vendors, those tending their fields and everyone else who in the preceding three months had some casual employment — they are all employed. This thinking is further projected in the hare-brained idea that Zimbabwe would be an upper-middle class economy by 2030. It is an administration hell bent on ticking the boxes — having quantitative growth at the expense of the living standards of its people. It is very easy to reach upper middle-class status based on per capita income — some obscure formula that says the total wealth of the nation divided by the population. Unfortunately, in reality this could be wealth belonging to 10 conglomerates. The administration is scared to use the other qualitative measures on measuring upper-middle income status such as how many people have access to toilets, potable water, how many do not live in abject poverty, access to safe and affordable energy, how many can access basic health and education services or even life expectancy? The reality is the administration is aware it cannot supply adequate potable water to its urban citizens in the next decade or safe and affordable energy. It is aware it cannot supply primary health care to its citizens nor can it provide basic education. This administration knows for the next decade it cannot make the working class have a living wage. And its so a neoliberal calculation of national wealth driven by feudal capitalists. It is within the same spirit of disguising grim figures behind some contrived formula that Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema this week announced a proposition to look into Grade Seven results classification. Mathema told the State-controlled media that the government was ready to redefine what a zero-pass rate means. This is a decision that follows the poor 2020 Grade Seven results, a set of results that is set to stay with us until a serious restructuring of the education curricular and motivation of teachers is put in place. The Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) Grade Seven pass rate for 2020 dropped from 46,9% in 2019 to 37,1% last year owing to a number of challenges such as the outbreak of COVID-19 and teachers strike. A whopping 88 schools recorded 0%. Most of these schools are in marginalised rural communities. “We need to redefine this issue of zero pass rate. I have got the results analysis for Grade 7 examinations and what I observed is that most candidates passed most subjects and those who failed, mainly failed mathematics and agriculture. But what we want is that all the pupils need to pass what they are learning. We need to redefine what a zero-pass rate is,” Mathema said. This could be reverse apartheid during colonial era when there was bottleneck education. Bottleneck education referred to a pre-calculated formula of how many students were to progress from one level of education to the next. In the present case, it is now suggested a new formula should be found to have many students move from one level of education to the next. Why is this new approach necessary? It is intended to fool the lumpen proletariat — the peasants and the poor working class. It is a tried and tested way that the country can pretend its young cannot only read and write but also comprehend written texts. This lie cannot continue, I have come across 10-year-old children who can’t read, write and do simple mathematics. We are slowly becoming a nation of professional actors, people who suspend both belief and rationality to run away from their grim reality. This is all an elaborate and contrived act to call ourselves an upper-middle income country by the end of the decade. This is akin to the lie that we lived for three years that the bond note was equal to the greenback. A lie that was cruelly exposed when the tide was low that our government was swimming naked. It was a bubble and the bubble had burst — and so with it a lot of people’s life savings. Let us stop this laughter. Let us stop this fascination with numbers and start judging ourselves by qualitative results. Our upper-middle income status by 2030 should be seen through access to water, toilets, affordable energy, accessible and affordable primary healthcare and education and above all a living wage for the poor working class. Anything less is a phantom. For education, a subject which we revelled in for so long, an objective test would be how many can read and write, how many can do simple arithmetic and how many understand the basics of science and technology. Papering over the cracks does not help anyone. It is like taking a painkiller — giving temporary relief but it’s not treatment. The administration should look the beast in the eye, roll up its sleeves and solve the problems in the education  sector rather than finding an easy way out by tampering with the figures.


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