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SIFISO Ndebele, a Grade 5 pupil at Samukele Primary School in Matabeleland North, dreams of becoming a scientist. But sadly, her dream is not in tandem with the learning conditions at her school. Her school has extremely poor infrastructure, with pupils from ECD A up to Grade 6 sharing an old dilapidated corrugated iron-roofed farmhouse as a “classroom,” while their teachers use grass-thatched huts as living quarters.

The school, established in 2013, with an enrollment of 115 pupils, does not have enough desks, chairs, blackboards and other basic equipment. Samukele, an annex of Maraposa Primary School, only has three teachers. Such is the situation at a school expected to produce scientists, doctors, engineers, teachers among other professionals. “Our pupils are average and below average. We are having a challenge of composite classes as well as inadequate learning and teaching materials. Given enough resources and proper infrastructure, these pupils will do wonders,” Maraposa headmaster

Jethro Dube told Southern Eye recently during a visit to the school when the Environmental Management Agency was launching the national fire week programme. Teacher-in-charge of the school, Sinqobile Lerato Seremwe said they currently have about 100 bags of cement bought through a government grant. “We need building materials as well as labour. Our aim is to construct at least three classroom blocks, for a start, but without building material it’s difficult,” she said. The school, situated in ward 10, Umguza district, was established to cater for children who were walking more than 20 kilometres daily, to and from the nearest school. Due to its poor infrastructure and being an annex school, Samukele is not allowed to run Grade 7 examinations and as such, after finishing Grade 6, pupils are referred to Maraposa for Grade 7, thereby enduring the 20km distance they were trying to avoid. Worse still, ward 10 does not have a secondary school.

So from Grade 7, children will endure another 40km distance to the nearest Mahlothova Secondary School. “Due to the long distances, our children end up dropping out of school at a tender age. The love for school just diminishes,” ward 10 councillor, Luke Ndlovu said. “Some parents end up renting accommodation for their children near the school, but that is also costly. Parents are in a catch-22 situation,” he said. A villager, Gift Sibanda appealed to government and non-governmental organisations to assist by building proper primary and secondary schools in the area.

Recently, Primary and Secondary Education minister Paul Mavima revealed that Zimbabwe has a deficit of more than 2 000 schools, especially in new settlements and rural areas, resulting in children learning in tobacco barns. A number of schools in Matabeleland have poor infrastructure and many qualified teachers do not want to be deployed there. Due to lack of resources and shortage of qualified teachers, the pass rate for most of the schools perpetually sits at 0%. “A number of teachers do not want to teach at this school due to poor infrastructure. One teacher literally cried and refused to teach these poor pupils. It’s so sad that government continues to neglect schools such as this one yet developing schools in urban areas,” said one teacher at the school who requested anonymity.