Nyemudzai Kakore Herald Reporter
Government has banned Form One entrance tests because most school heads were using them to raise cash and not to properly screen pupils.The ban comes a few weeks before most secondary schools conduct entrance tests in which varying amounts of non-refundable fees are demanded from prospective pupils.
In an interview, acting Secretary for Primary and Secondary Education Mr Rogers Sisimayi said: “The policy position of the ministry is very clear. Schools are supposed to enrol Form One pupils on the basis of their Grade Seven results. What is the purpose of Grade Seven examinations if they are not used for Form One entrance? We communicated with schools through the normal channels and that is in our written circulars.”
Mr Sisimayi said schools were fleecing parents of their hard-earned cash by turning entrance tests into a business.
He said children from low-income families could not afford prohibitive fees charged for entrance exams, thereby widening the social gap.
“Entrance tests had become a fundraising business, which Government wants to avoid at all costs. We are now following Government policy of the pro-poor agenda.”
A survey by The Herald showed that private and mission schools were preparing to hold the annual mid-year interviews process that attracts thousands of prospective pupils countrywide.
Some schools invite as many as 2 500 pupils for interviews, yet they can accommodate about 100. An average can invite over 1 000 pupils and charge each between US$30 and US$40 to sit for the tests.
The best schools attract as many as 2 500 pupils and charge between US$40 and US$50.
Mr Sisimayi said any school that defies the Government directive would be dealt with accordingly.
“Schools are aware of the ministry’s position and the conduct of civil servants is guided by the provision of Statutory Instrument 1 of 2001 which partly reads, ‘failure to obey an instruction by one in a position of authority is an act of misconduct’,” said Mr Sisimayi.
“We will cross the bridge when we get there should schools defy Government’s directive”.
The directive on entrants could disrupt preparations for next year’s class of high school beginners that are normally concluded before the end of the second term.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association president and Apex council team leader Mr Richard Gundani agreed with Government’s position.
“It is a positive development as it brings order in the form one recruitment exercise. Most schools were setting their own standards which increased the cost of education. As a result, some pupils were failing to access quality education,” he said.
Zimbabwe’s revered education sector is being undone by chaos that includes forced attendance of holiday and extra lessons, as well as incentives paid to teachers over and above their salaries.
Government recently banned all holiday lessons – except for examination classes – as well as teachers’ incentives.