‘We are breeding little monsters in schools’ — says Education minister; calls for stop to gangsterism

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By James Muonwa l Mashonaland West Correspondent

PRIMARY and Secondary Education Permanent Secretary, Tumisang Thabela has bemoaned the prevalence of untoward behaviour among learners including gangsterism and drug abuse, which she attributed to a lack of family and societal values.
Addressing dignitaries attending the belated 2022 Provincial Merit Awards held at Chinhoyi High School Wednesday, Thabela said gangsterism was now rife like in the olden days when ghettos were havens of the vice, but sadly the ugly scenes were now playing out at learning institutions.
This, she said, compounded by drug and substance abuse was making schools unsafe places.
“In those olden days gangsterism was rife and continues to be rife, but once children wear uniforms, your (Primary and Secondary Education) ministry is picked as the ones who are not disciplining children,” said the permanent secretary.
“…but vafundisi (clergy) it starts at home. It starts with us as parents before we become teachers.
“I think we need to rediscover ourselves as parents and communities and start making children grow up into pleasant human beings, not little monsters that we as parents will be afraid of.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are in a space that is ugly as human beings.”
Thabela’s remarks follow the death of 16-year-old pupil Wayne Ndhlovu from Founders High School in Bulawayo, who died after he was stabbed in the neck in gang related violence earlier this month.
It is said that the deceased confronted his attacker, also aged 16, questioning why he had beaten up his friend.
This resulted in a fight between pupils from Founders and those from Hamilton High School.
The scuffle reportedly started when pupils had knocked off from school and were waiting for transport at a roadside near Founders High School.
Gang related violence among pupils from various schools in the city has become common.
Turning to the new competence-based curriculum introduced in 2015, Thabela said implementation was still problematic as the 28% national pass rate at Ordinary Level reflected that “we are still not talking to every learner, meaning what we taught was not relevant to 62% of learners.”
Also, the assessment criteria of pupils was flawed and needs revisiting, the education ministry boss said.
Starting in 2023, the ministry will adopt technical vocational classes at Advanced Level to cater for 80% of students who would not ordinarily take up sciences, commercials and arts subjects.
Ten model technical high schools, including Chinhoyi High, have been identified across the country, where learners will be trade-tested for specific vocational areas such as baking, textile and clothing technology, carpentry, metal fabrication, among others.
“The new curriculum is saying we must have experiential and applied learning which demands that we profile learners from the beginning.”
Vocationalisation of the curriculum, teaching foundational numeracy and literacy and digitisation are the pillars to transform the education system, she said.
Meanwhile, Sandringham High School emerged overall winners in the 2022 Mashonaland West Merit Awards scooping gold.