Cletus Mushanawani, Harare Bureau
THE increase in the number of learners who passed last November’s Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council Ordinary Level examinations has caused serious Form Five enrolment challenges, as most potential learners are struggling to secure places.
More than 63 000 pupils obtained Grade C or better in at least five subjects with schools, especially those that offer boarding facilities, already over-subscribed.
With most schools expected to start Lower Six lessons this week, many learners are still stranded and are hopping from one school to the other armed with recommendation letters in the vain hope of securing places.
In selecting learners for Form Five, schools usually give first preference to their excelling O-Level learners with good disciplinary records.
They also take into consideration the subject combinations the learners want and it is done on a first come, first serve basis.
Those from other schools should have a recommendation letter from their previous school explaining their disciplinary record, while church-run schools also give first preference to learners from their denomination.
Although the Deputy Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Mr Edgar Moyo, said they are still to receive the actual enrolment figures of Form Five learners, education secretaries for different churches confirmed that demand for places is high.
“We are hearing that recruitment is going on well at most schools. Securing places at boarding schools is usually a challenge because of the high demand.
“We cannot rule out the issue of over-subscription of Form Five classes because of the low numbers that are recruited.
“Schools that score high marks are usually overwhelmed by demand for places as parents want their children to get the best education. Those who are facing challenges in securing places should approach provincial education directors and district inspectors’ offices for assistance as they have better knowledge of schools within their jurisdictions. They will advise them on other alternatives,” said Cde Moyo.
Seventh Day Adventist Church East Zimbabwe Conference education director, Dr Robert Muzira, said from the reports they are getting from their schools, it shows that demand for Form Five places is high this year.
“Our schools are still recruiting and I do not have the actual enrolment figures with me right now. The number of e-mails we are getting from people asking us to assist them in securing places for their children is overwhelming. The reason why there is high demand for places is that usually Form Five classes are fewer than Form Four classes. Schools might have three or four form four classes, but at A-Level, it is usually a single or two classes depending on the combinations of subjects. We are also using a template availed by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in recruiting the learners,” he said.
On measures they are taking to address the shortage of places, Dr Muzira said they are turning some of their schools like Katenga in Makoni and Handina Adventist schools into boarding schools.
“Most boarding schools are oversubscribed and we are working on increasing the number of boarding schools under our administration. At Katenga, we are building boarding facilities and we have applied to the education authorities in Rusape to transform Handina Adventist School into a boarding one. We want to have more schools in near future,” said Dr Muzira.
Roman Catholic Church Gweru Diocese education secretary, Father Augustine Chirikadzi, said recruitment is going on well in the diocese.
“We are managing the recruitment process well. Each school is looking at the number of As obtained by a learner at O-Level, but demand for boarding places is high,” he said.
Mutare Diocese education secretary, Mr Lawrence Chibvuri, said the screening process is transparent although most schools are already over-subscribed.
“We use a first come, first serve approach in recruiting Form Five learners. At day schools like St Dominic’s and St Joseph’s in Mutare, we asked them to recruit on the same day because we realised that some parents have a tendency of going to all schools trying to secure places for their children and this ends up creating a lot of confusion on the part of schools administrators as a learner can be offered places at more than one school.
“The issue of combinations also comes into play because some of the combinations that the learners want are not offered at particular schools. Combinations help shape a child’s future and we want learners to enrol for the best combinations.
“As a church institution we also value discipline and we look at recommendation letters of learners coming from other schools.
At times it is a puzzle to find a high flier not being accepted by his or her former school and this can result in one failing to secure a place as his discipline may be questionable. Headmasters should be honest and tell the truth of one’s disciplinary record,” said Mr Chibvuri.