In Part 1 of this series, the collaborative community practices of Solusi University were discussed. This post centers on one particular outreach project between the University and Ntenjane Primary School.
The Primary School Next Door
Ntenjane Primary School is a Seventh-Day Adventist institution west of Bulawayo City. The school is 10 kilometers from Solusi University and is situated in rural area spanned by farms. Quite a number of the parents of these students have migrated to South Africa, or have relatives working there, leaving many of the school-going children under the guardianship of their grandparents. This has a great impact on the academic performance and outside lives of most of these learners, affecting the availability of teaching resources and morale of the learners and the teachers.
An Educational Dilemma
Over recent years, the primary school has been experiencing a decline in its national examination pass rate for Grade 7. This can be seen from the results the school obtained from the years 2018 to 2020. While the school used to be on par with the national pass rate, the education sector was greatly affected by the lockdowns and school closures due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. In the year 2021, the national average pass rate was 37.11%, whereas Ntenjane school posted a 15% pass rate.
It is a clear fact that pass rate is one of the indicators of quality education. Failure by the school to post good results could indicate multiple problems that need to be addressed. One problem might be a lack of material resources. Another could be a lack of motivation, which affects study strategies, academic performance and well-being. If the trend of declining results continues, learners will continue to be short-changed. The low pass rates imply that the students will be exiting primary school without a good foundation for future academic work. This may cause some or most of them to drop out of school.
Community Outreach and Intervention
The yearly intensification of the crisis became a concern to Solusi University. As an institution of higher learning, the Department of Education committed to analyzing the underlying causes of the low pass rates in order to reach out and assist both teachers and learners. After reviewing the possible causes, the University decided to conduct intervention measures. The following steps were carried out:
- Befriending of Ntenjane Primary School’s administrators, faculty, staff, and students
- Holding meetings to hear teacher concerns and to share improvement ideas with school development committees
- Creating a specific meeting to address the Grade 7 pupils, encouraging them to study and giving lessons on effective study skills; writing class students were promised prizes and a big party if they could attain good grades and raise the pass rate
- Gifting writing pens and essential examination preparation materials to students, as well as implementing exam coaching from university lecturers
- Motivating teachers through the provision of teaching materials and a water supply as well as teaming them up with lecturers from the Solusi University Department of Education for support
Both the students and teachers were highly motivated by the time the final examinations were written. Intentional community collaboration from Solusi University had inspired hope to the Ntenjane Primary school family.
You can read about the results of these interventions in Part 3 of this series.