There is no possibility of deferring public examinations this year, despite limited attendance by teachers in some schools as doing so would disadvantage other pupils who were learning without disruptions, legislators heard yesterday.
Secretary for Primary and Secondary Education Mrs Tumisang Thabela said scrapping examinations would also cripple higher and tertiary institutions as they would struggle to get first year students next year, Mrs Thabela said while giving oral evidence before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education.
The committee, chaired by Matabeleland South Proportionate Representative Ms Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, sought to know what the ministry was doing to ease the situation in those schools where some teachers have not been going to work citing incapacitation.
Her ministry was ready to commence public examinations and noted that while there was no maximum learning at some public schools, the situation was not the same with regard to Trust, boarding and independent schools.
“We believe yes, it is difficult. But some of our schools which do not depend wholly on the presence of teachers. Schools are ready for exams. You talk of Trust schools, private, independent and boarding schools they are ready. We have to look at the factors and say should we therefore disadvantage every child and say no child should write exams because those in the public schools are lagging behind,” said Mrs Thabela.
“The other thing you have to look is the whole system in the education sector. If you say we scrap our exams what then happens come January? We are the people that produce students for higher education. What it means as a country is if you cannot run these exams, next year there will be nobody to feed colleges and universities.
“So systematic consideration has to be taken into account. We need to make an assessment. As a country we have to look at things holistically, to say are we prepared to have a year with no first years for colleges or universities.
“So we are ready for the exams but what we lack are the teachers, and we have faith in the Government dialogue with the teachers we hope they will come to an agreement.”
Mrs Thabela acknowledged that the absence of teachers in some schools had an adverse effect on the education sector, but there had since introduced alternative learning methods to alleviate the situation.
“Yes definitely it is not a normal or optimal situation because our schools are normal when teachers report for duty and actually teach our learners. With this impasse or incapacitation as a sector, we feel the pinch, except for Trust schools and boarding schools where quality learning is taking place. In our public schools we are really struggling.
“Even as we go to the next phase, our biggest challenge is the presence of teachers. Without teachers we are really getting overwhelmed as a system because we have 4,5 million children to look after and we cannot look after them with less than 10 percent of staff reporting for duty,” she said.
Mrs Thabela condemned the levying of incentives by some teachers.
“It is not a desirable situation. It shows how people have become mercenaries in nature.”