Christopher Farai Charamba Correspondent
Education is an important part of one’s life. Many parents work to the best of their ability to ensure that their child receives the best possible education available to them.
In so doing some parents prefer to have their child at a school that produces top academic results and one where their child can learn to grow independently in a safe and controlled environment.
For this reason, among others, boarding schools tend to be a popular option for parents who can afford to send their children there. Boarding schools are places where children learn and live at the school for the duration of the term.
Such schools are popular in Zimbabwe due to their top academic performance as well as the fact that the child is growing up in a disciplined environment among other pupils in their age group.
For example, all top five schools which produced the best Zimbabwe School’s Examination Council Ordinary Level results in 2014 are boarding schools. Monte Casino Secondary School recorded a 100 percent O-Level pass, while Kriste Mambo Secondary was second with 98,17 percent. Nyanga High was third with 97,92 percent while in fourth position was St Dominics Chishawasha with 96,84 percent.
In fifth position was St David’s Bonda Secondary School with 96,83 percent.
The 2014 O-Level results also support some of reasons why parents prefer boarding schools to day schools particularly on the academic front.
At least 16 of the top 20 and nine of the top 10 schools with the best results were boarding schools with pass rates of 90 percent and above.
Such school, parents say, have the ability to teach their kids important life skills while growing up.
Last week saw the commencement of the 2016 academic year as schools opened on Tuesday.
Many children had already been enrolled during the one day enrolment process which took place in the previous December however, some children were unable to get their preferable options particularly at boarding schools which were full.
Some children were forced to look for places at local day schools in their area on the first day.
Mrs Ropafadzo Kutenda, a resident of Mabvuku said that her son was unable to enrol at the boarding school of preference due to the fact that when she arrived there all the places were filled up.
“I wanted my son to go to a boarding school for Form One. He passed his Grade Seven with six units and I thought that it would be a good opportunity for him now to go to boarding.
“However, because of the one day enrolment policy some of the places that I wanted to send him like St Ignatius College and Mazowe Boys High were already fully booked and so we had to wait until the holiday was over to find him a place here in Mabvuku,” she said.
Kutenda said that boarding school was preferable because they produce better results than the local schools and that it was an environment that was focused on educating the child.
“It is difficult to ensure that my child is focused on his studies when he is at home. Most of the time we are at work and when we come back it is already late.
‘‘You don’t know whether he has been reading or out playing in the street with his friends,” she said.
Other parents share this sentiment that a boarding environment will encourage a child to study and learn discipline.
Mr James Dube said that he sent his daughter to boarding school because she was ill-disciplined and he feared that sending her to a local school would make her worse.
“After Grade Seven I knew that a mission school like Kriste Mambo Secondary School would be best for my daughter so that she could learn to behave. At home there are too many distractions and bad influences, especially when we are not around.
“At least at a boarding school there are monitored and they are taught how to take care of themselves as well as follow the rules.
‘‘I think it is a preferable option but I know of many parents that have failed to send their children to boarding schools because they could not get a place,” he said.
President of Education Development Association of Gutu High School Mr Theophilus Kombe echoed the sentiments of many parents in that boarding school provides a better learning environment for students.
“A boarding school is an academic seminary, taking students off externalised disturbances and psychological noise, giving them ample time to focus on their studies.
“If well-structured and administered, it is a world where only excellence defines supremacy, hence creating a natural motivating environment,” he said.
Kombe added that due to the special environment of a boarding school it should be about grooming the full circuit of an individual, social, physical and spiritual and not just academic.
“The custodianship of students at a boarding school is more of a calling than a profession. The teachers and workers at the school are entrusted with the responsibility of the welfare of these students and should see themselves as steward to this effect,” he said.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Dr Lazarus Dokora acknowledged the fact that there were not enough boarding schools in the aftermath of the form one enrolment process and that there was a need to make more of such options available.
“It was quite noticeable and dramatic, the sheer amount of people who want boarding places. This is an indication to us of how schools will have to respond to the interest.
“Unfortunately there are a limited number of boarding schools and because of the nature of the school they can fill up. However, day schools cannot say that they are full and continued to enrol pupils up until last week,” he said.
Dr Dokora said that it was quite peculiar that there is a noticeable amount of people who require boarding when day schooling option is cheaper.
“It is a mixed bag of why people prefer boarding to day school. Some parents want the child to be at school because they are not available, others will link boarding to academic results, so it is not just one thing.
“Going forward we will have to look much broader at schools, not just focusing on academic performance but also orienting the child to life skills,” he added.
The minister said that while boarding schools could fill up day schools were meant to accommodate all those who could not get their preferred places while Government works on building new schools.
“We said last week that no child should be sent away from school and this is a lawful policy backed by the constitution. While there might not have been enough places at preferred options, day schools must continue to enrol pupils.
“Rather than send pupils away employers are expected to provide teachers for the students that they enrol. We are trying to deliver in a joint venture to build new schools however I can’t say that one million children should stay at home until I have built schools.
“You cannot fault a child for being a child or deny them the right to an education,” he said.
Dr Dokora said he would be out in the districts in the coming days to assess the matter on the ground regarding school enrolment and the current state of schools.
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