GENDER FOCUS with EMELDA MWITWA
WELL the grade seven exam results are out so early, and the airwaves and social media platforms were awash with messages of congratulations to successful candidates.
Parents and guardians have gone about celebrating the achievements of their sons and daughters who are among the 310,230 successful candidates.
I am personally aware of a couple that was short of slaughtering a cow for their two sons that have both made it to grade eight with high marks.
Other proud parents have seized the opportunity to spoil their children who have passed with gifts and all sorts of compliments to motivate them to soldier on in their education.
Indeed itâ€™s a good thing for a parent to see their children excel in their academics because of the desire to see them have a bright future.
It is the wish of every caring and responsible parent to educate their children, if possible help them achieve what eluded then during their school time or career.
Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s gratifying to have your children pass an exam because it gives you a glimpse of their future if they remain committed to their education.
But as people are engrossed in celebrating the successes of their children who have qualified to grade eight, somehow my heart goes to the 34,286 girls and boys who failed their examinations.
In any case for some of them itâ€™s not failure per se but rather were left out because they could not reach the cut-off point given the highly-competitive environment nowadays.
I feel the 34, 286 unsuccessful candidates need to be handled with care and proper parental guidance, otherwise they may drop-out of school completely.
Probably disappointed parents will feel compelled to reprimand and punish their children that have failed.
In extreme circumstances some angry parents and guardians may go to lengths of withdrawing sponsorship from their children.
And I shudder to imagine what would become of the 12 and 13-year-olds that may get trapped into social mischief on account of their sponsors refusing to give them a second chance at education.
Mind you, from information that has been filtering when grades seven, nine and 12 examination results are published, it seems some of the adolescents do not know how to handle themselves after failing an exam.
The happenings where some of our young people have been taking their lives, go to show that probably some of the adolescents are not handled well during that period of disappointment.
Of course there is nothing wrong with chiding a playful child that has failed an examination. But the child may find the situation unbearable if the home environment becomes hostile on account of her or his poor performance.
What most of the children that have failed need is a pat on the back that: â€˜Hey failing an exam is not the end of the world, you can make it if you try again.â€™
Seeing their colleagues excel to the next level may in itself be a bitter pill to swallow for some children, but a supportive home environment can help them to recover and be in the right frame of mind to try again.
Itâ€™s also important for parents to appreciate that not all school children can run and reach the finishing line together. There are fast as well as slow runners who need extra coaching and encouragement to reach the finishing line.
There are so many people with flourishing careers or business who have fulfilled their dreams after failing their exams probably once or twice.
Fortunately for the children of nowadays, there are more school spaces than there was two, three decades back.
Therefore probably most of those that fell below the cut-off point will be absorbed in public school, if space allows.
Actually the Minister of General Education John Phiri attributed the 90.05 percent progression rate (from 90.02 percent last year) at grade seven to the expansion of classroom spaces across the country.
So parents/guardians whose children did well, though they were not selected, need to do all that they could to secure them a place in grade eight.
For those that didnâ€™t do well, itâ€™s good that Dr Phiri was also concerned at their plight and directed the directorate of distance education and open education to absorb them into schools for continuity.
In fact this is the group of learners am concerned with; and I hope that concerned families will do something to help them. Vocational training may perhaps help for those children that have repeatedly failed to progress in their academics.
If the 34,286 are offloaded onto the streets to face life on their own, they will add to the number of social problems such as crime, substance abuse, prostitution, poverty and its devastating effects on society.
This could result into a poverty cycle that may trickle down to their children and childrenâ€™s children.
The effect of mishandling those that fail exams will therefore be felt not only by the victims alone, but society at large.
For this reason, I feel parents must not only play the blame game but also do what they could to help children pass their exams.
For instance, the Ministry of General Education indicates that absenteeism was high – out of 383,676 candidates who entered for grade seven exams this year, only 344, 516 actually wrote.
This means that 39,160 were absent and the reasons cited were early marriages, pregnancies and for boys, it was household income generating activities.
My appeal to parents and guardians is that letâ€™s do the best we can to give our children space to attend school and study. In some cases children fail their examinations because they are loaded with too much domestic work and also co-opted into income generating activities.
The worst culprits of child labour are the parents themselves who compel children to divide their time between school and work.
You find that a school boy will have to spend time in daddy or mummyâ€™s shop or rearing animals and then be expected to study. Girls equally have to juggle school-work with street vending and sitting in for their mothers in the market when they are committed elsewhere. In addition, school girls need to shoulder house chores and sometimes take care of the sick in the family. This is one of the reasons why girls usually donâ€™t do well in school compared to their male counterparts.
And their cut off point is lower than boys, not that they are less intelligent as some people think, but because from a tender age, they have too many responsibilities on their shoulders.
However, I was impressed with girlsâ€™ performance this year – 154,352 of them have made it to grade eight against 155,878 boys
In a nutshell, parents have a critical role to play in the educational attainments and career prospects of their children. Therefore both those that have passed or failed need support and reassurance of parents.
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GENDER FOCUS with EMELDA MWITWA