TODAY there will be is a scramble for Form 1 places after Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora directed all schools to conduct enrolment on the same day using Grade 7 results.
Candid Comment by Faith Zaba
This he did following an outcry by parents over the cost of entrance tests being charged by schools. Dokora’s decision, however well-intentioned, has had devastating consequences. In his over-enthusiasm, he failed to take into consideration the chaos such a process would unleash if conducted in one day and the feasibility of enrolling 329 217 Grade 7 students in a single day.
Dokora’s decision, if anything, promotes corruption, as unscrupulous school officials will take advantage of the parents’ desperation and demand bribes to secure places.
Not only does the directive strain desperate parents, who today will criss-cross the country in search of Form 1 places, but also students who attained more than 10 units. The students will have to endure hours of humiliation as most schools will be taking students with good grades.
This latest directive is one of his many controversial, or is it ridiculous, decisions in the two years or so that he has been in cabinet. Dokora has made policy pronouncements that have baffled and angered stakeholders in equal measure.
Instead of focussing on key policy issues that improve the education sector, been engrossed with petty and trivial this things. ‘
Some of the most contentious policies he has introduced include the banning of extra lessons in schools, scrapping of teachers’ incentives and the banning of age-old Civvies Day practice in school.
He has also banned entrance tests for pupils looking for Form 1 places — a decision which has divided public opinion.
Dokora has also increased examination fees for secondary public examinations and introduced Grade 7 exam fees. But what has probably grated the most was the suggestion that all Ordinary Level students go for industrial internship.
All the decisions that Dokora has made have been nothing short of disgraceful. The education minister should be focusing on improving the quality of education and teachers’ welfare instead. He has superintended over what is possibly the worst results in the country’s history particularly in rural areas. His focus should be finding ways to improve results and stop leakages of exam papers.
Instead of giving directives that put parents and students in a fix, he should be concerned by the alarmingly poor Grade 7 results. This year’s pass rate was just 41,82%.
Dokora should be ensuring that all schools, particularly those in rural areas, have teachers and other critical resources like textbooks, classrooms, desks and chairs. He should be bridging the current deficit of schools where there are 1 252 primary schools to 804 secondary schools. Students, especially in the rural areas, still travel long distances as far as 20km to school. Dokora needs to focus on ensuring that the Basic Education Assistance Module programme, which assisted vulnerable children with school and examination fees, is up and running again.
It’s these issues Dokora should focus on, not the petty and downright uninformed directives.