The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent educational disruption has had a substantial negative effect on the education sector, with rural schools being the most affected.
A negative correlation between rurality and access to digital technologies for remote learning also worsened the plight of the already vulnerable rural learner who travels long distances to and from school on a daily basis.
There is therefore a need to expedite the transformation and capacitation of rural schools to offer quality education in the quest for the sustainable recovery of the education sector in the face of Covid-19 accelerated learning inequalities.
In that regard, the recent nod for the transformation of Tabudirira High School in Bikita district into a boarding school by the Ministry of Education is one positive step towards a balanced recovery.
The development followed the recommendations from a 2020 all stakeholders’ meeting that the school should open up boarding facilities for both boys and girls after delegates realised a 100% pass rate obtained at A’ level. Students scored from 15, 14, 13 and 12 points, with the lowest scoring 12 points.
The headmaster, Mr Mukwena said officials from the Ministry of Education were also impressed by the developments the school had undertaken since his assumption of office in 1994 as well as good pass rates despite the Covid-19 induced educational disruption. He added that the School Development Committee (SDC) was also very supportive of the initiative.
“The SDC were found to be supportive and hard working as well. After the parents had indicated the long distances students walked to school, 6 – 9 kilometres to-and-fro every day, the education directors recommended that we set up boarding facilities for both boys and girls,” said Mr Mukwena. He also said the transformation of the school is likely to drive the pass rates upwards as it will give learners more time to study since they will not be travelling long distances.
In his appeal for funding, Mr Mukwena said the school needs 1 block of 2 classrooms, specialist science laboratories, two dining halls, attached dormitories housing 160 students each for both boys and girls, at least 320 beds and kitchen facilities in addition to the existing infrastructure.
“Existing infrastructure includes teachers’ houses (seven F14 houses and 10 extended F14 houses), ordinary classrooms (eight blocks of 2 classrooms), specialist rooms (one classroom computer laboratory, two classroom science laboratories) and an agriculture shed.”
“Additional infrastructure needed includes: one block of 2 classrooms specialist laboratories for Biology, Chemistry and Physics or furnishing the existing laboratories, two dining halls attached to dormitories housing 160 students each for both girls and boys, 320 beds to start with and kitchen facilities for a boarding school,” he added.
A facelift of the school according to Mr Mukwena is likely to boost its image and in turn motivate its staff to work hard, enhance business opportunities for locals and also improve disciplinary situations as students would not squat anywhere in the villages.
Major challenges in the execution of the project include lack of material resources to build the requisite infrastructure and financial resources to pay for the construction, thus the headmaster is appealing for financial assistance from individuals, the private sector and civic society organisations.