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libraries for rural schools
October 21, 2012
For a number
of years now the rural pass rate for 'O' level students in Zimbabwe
has continued to decline creating the impression that probably rural
teachers are not doing justice to the profession and the service.
I also used
to share this erroneous observation until I woke up and found myself
teaching in a rural secondary school.
This may sound
as if I am digressing or scorning the rural student but the point
is to contextualize what I am talking about for the benefit of those
with an ear to listen and those in policy making positions so that
they can do something to mitigate the growing negative trend.
As a nation
we can indeed brag about ninety percent literacy rates yet our rural
school pass rates may always remain an embarrassing indictment on
our academic-literacy legacy.
Lack of library
facilities at most rural schools, both primary and secondary, has
led to the continued plummeting of pass rates in rural secondary
and primary schools.
Pupils do not
have secondary literature to stimulate their intellect over and
above the textbook. The textbook is not a favourite read for many
a student due to the attendant questions unlike, say, a novel which
one reads for pleasure yet also derive uplifting intellectual rewards.
As an English
language and literature teacher I have come to realize the importance
of a well-equipped library as this is a gateway to stimulating pupils'
interest in various subjects by inducing in them a reading culture
which then translates into effective study habits.
Until the recent
intervention by UNICEF and other stakeholders who donated textbooks
to most rural schools, rural pupils were relegated to second class
citizens whose existence, one would say, is only a public relations
tool by the government to present to the world when they talk about
their 'high literacy' levels and not necessarily in terms of the
quality of education and related facilities availed to them.
My humble opinion
is that they (rural) pupils are only there to contribute to the
numbers. I strongly believe that since all secondary and primary
school subjects, save for Shona, are taught in English, that subject
should be given priority so that if our pupils understand it, it
will become easier for them to appreciate other subjects even if
their interests may not lie in the arts.
In simple terms,
pupils who cannot effectively understand English will by extension
find challenges in understanding Mathematics, Geography etc. I have
witnessed this even at university level.
Most rural schools
operate on shoestring budgets thus are not in a position to provide
basic library facilities for their pupils. The government thus needs
to court interested stakeholders and well-wishers to bridge the
gap in order to change the fortunes of our rural pupils so that
they can stand with pride in the face of the world and make meaningful
contributions to their society in various areas of human existence.
The growth and
proliferation of information technology such as e-learning still
remains a mirage in our rural schools thus it is logical to provide
them with the basic literature in hardcopy format. In a couple of
weeks the ZIMSEC exams will kick start and one does not need to
be a pessimist to predict that the percentage pass rate for rural
schools will remain more or less the same.
For the sake
of our development we need to provide our rural pupils with adequate
library facilities so that they may effectively compete with their
urban counterparts. Current trends can only lead to the development
of two kinds of students.
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