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Zimbabwe Education: ‘Holiday Lessons Never Banned’

Archibald Sanyanga, a middle-aged father of three from Harare’s Glen View suburb, lowers his huge figure to get a clear reading of numbers ...

Archibald Sanyanga, a middle-aged father of three from Harare’s Glen View suburb, lowers his huge figure to get a clear reading of numbers inscribed on a shelf in one of the leading shoe shops in the city.

His apparent poor eye sight undermines the man’s effort, prompting a smartly dressed shop assistant to intervene.

Having already spent much of the day shopping for his two daughters, aged seven and eleven, who are returning to school on Tuesday, Mr Sanyanga looks exhausted.

“Good day sir, if you are looking for the best prices for school shoes in town you have come to the right place,” the shop assistant says in a well-pronounced accent accompanied with a striking smile.

“We have a number of back-to-school promotions …” The lady does not finish her sentence as Mr Sanyanga interrupts her with a sharp domineering voice.
Holiday Lesson Never banned' 

“Back to school?” he asks sarcastically. They are not going back to school, they have always been there. It’s funny that schools are opening when, in actual fact, they never closed,” he says, letting off a wild laughter.

While it might be easy to conclude that Mr Sanyanga is a rude man, his remarks are telling of the prevailing situation.

Despite a Government ban on extra lessons, most students countrywide are left with only a few days to rest during school holidays as they have to report for lessons.

This is a violation of yet another ban on teacher incentives as the teachers divide amongst themselves the proceeds from the holiday lessons fees.

While holiday lessons have been set aside for examination classes only, classes as low as Grade 3 are being forced to attend holiday lessons.

This has left students with virtually no time to rest, travel or engage in other holiday activities while parents are left with strained finances. Holiday classes disadvantages those who cannot afford to pay for them as those who can get on with the syllabus.

This has provoked educationists who contend that holidays were set aside for pupils to rest and not to be overloaded with work. “Students also need to rest, that is why the holidays were set aside,” said educationist and lecturer in the Department of Technical Education at University of Zimbabwe Dr Peter Kwaira.

“Education should not be about drilling information into children because learning should be natural, it is engagement between a teacher and a student.

“So these holiday or extra lessons create artificial education whose purpose is to pass an exam. But bombarding students with information every day, every week and every month of the year is never the right way to teach.”

Dr Kwaira said holiday lessons can be limited to examination classes within the shortest period of time. “There is a place for extra lessons, let’s say in exam classes, but they should not stand in the way of natural education.

“We say learning is natural because it starts from conception right up to death, when a child is young and growing up to adulthood, they learn things naturally through observation.

“In the classroom you keep it natural through engagement and not drilling.” Contacted to comment on the matter, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Dr Lazarus Dokora said extra lessons remain banned.

He added that schools can apply to the Ministry to conduct lessons for examination classes. These, he said, cannot go beyond 16 days, adding that what the students pay for the period is proportionally determined by what they pay for the whole term.

Dr Dokora’s deputy, Professor Paul Mavima concurred, saying those abusing the provision by admitting other classes will face the consequences.

“We have never banned holiday lessons for examination classes and for those who want to conduct them, there is a procedure which involves applying to the Ministry,” he said.

“But if there are those abusing the system and admitting other classes which are not inside examination classes, there will be consequences.”

Zimbabwe Teachers Association chief executive officer, Mr Sifiso Ndlovu, also condemned the illegal extra lessons while applauding Government for regulating the administration of extra lessons.

“We commend Government for regulating extra lessons,” he said. “What it means is that schools that wish to establish a vacation school can apply to Government and get permission.

It helps with the preparation of students for their exams.” Mr Ndlovu, however, said this cannot apply to everyone. “We cannot have a situation where every child goes to school during the holiday, it is simply not right,” he said.

“Children who are not writing exams should be allowed time to rest, that is why we are saying those who are not in the examination class should stay at home.” Extra lessons have been a contentious issue in the country for some time.

They were banned after complaints that teachers were abusing the practice for personal enrichment. There were also reported incidents of teachers victimising students whose guardians could not pay for extra lessons. 

According to research findings published by the Zimbabwe Journal of Educational Research, extra lessons need a proper and well-structured regulation system as they can be easily abused by teachers.

“The study established that extra lessons were being targeted at examination classes,” reads the abstract of the report.” - The Sunday Mail 

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