Higher and Tertiary Education minister Amon Murwira yesterday told Parliament that there was no going back on public examinations set to start next week despite fears that students had lost the bulk of their study time to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Murwira said this during the National Assembly’s question-and-answer session after MPs expressed reservations over students’ state of preparedness.

Magwegwe legislator Anele Ndebele (MDC Alliance) said students at private schools were more prepared than their counterparts at public schools where teachers are on strike.

Is it Government policy that education is now a privilege and not a right considering that only those students in private schools are ready for examinations and those in public schools are not, owing to the industrial action by their teachers and the COVID-19 lockdown?” asked Ndebele.

Is government’s stance to proceed with examinations when they are fully aware that students in public schools are not prepared and have not been going to school not confirmation of the position that education is now a privilege for the rich and not a right?” he added.

But Murwira insisted that students were ready for examinations after receiving some lessons virtually. He added that he had toured the ZIMSEC facility and was convinced that examinations can go ahead.

I had the privilege today to visit the ZIMSEC factory where they are doing their best now to prepare for the examination period.  It is important that steps are being made to make sure that the examinations are written, but also steps are being made to make sure that they are not written in a compromising environment

I really trust the men and women who are working on this issue to make sure that our students are given appropriate education. I believe reasonability is going to prevail as a means to make sure that examinations are written without compromising anything,” Murwira answered.

Ndebele pointed at the glaring disparity between private schools which have been continuing with lessons and public schools where students have been disadvantaged by the crippling strike by teachers, adding that in the end pupils from poor schools have a disadvantage going into the exams.

Said Ndebele: “Is the Government aware that students in public schools are not prepared and have not been going to school not confirmation of the position that education is now a privilege for the rich and not a right?

Murwira insisted that it was not the intention of Government to disadvantage and particular group of students, and that all stakeholders have a responsibility to ensure students are well prepared for examinations.

It is very important for us to realise that our intention is never to punish our pupils.  The intention is to make sure that they are on time and they lose less time because of the COVID-19 problems that we had.

So, all steps are being taken to make sure that we do not compromise their right to access to education. 

When it comes to how prepared and how less prepared they are, I think this is a very technical question because there are several means that are being deployed to teach our students. 

There are radio lessons, there is internet and reading.  I am sure that when it comes to access to education, the intention is the most important, the intention is never to deny our students access to primary and secondary education. 

When COVID came in, nobody invited it but it is a malady that befell upon everybody, so we are faced with a situation where flexibility and rewiring of the strategy has to happen,” he said.

Teachers have been on strike demanding pay rise and have insisted on not going back to the classrooms until Government heeds their pleas. On the other hand, Government says the salary demand of over US $500 per teacher is unrealistic and unaffordable.

Credit: Zimbabwe Voice

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