Education: A tale of two schools

Nyanga is one of the most scenic areas of the Eastern Highlands and is best known for its stunning mountain views, beautiful cascading waterfalls that are fed by perennial streams and the diverse varieties of both flora and fauna.

Famed for its cool weather and the numerous tourist attractions, Nyanga is also home to some of the country’s best performing secondary schools.

Schools that are located in Nyanga, among them Nyanga High School, St David’s Bonda and Kriste Mambo, are rated among the country’s best performing secondary schools.

As part of the broad analysis of the Zimsec “O” and “A” Level examination results, The Sunday Mail Extra profiles Nyanga’s Knowstics Academy and Emmanuel High School, two of the institutions whose students performed exceptionally well in the 2014 Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) examinations.

One interesting fact about the schools is that although they are located in the same district, the learning environments at the two schools are as different as night and day.

The two institutions are clearly on either side of the education divide.

Whilst Knowstics is a prestigious private boarding school whose students are from well-to-do families, Emmanuel is a typical rural boarding school and the majority of the parents that send their children to this school often struggle to raise the US$450 boarding fees.

On the contrary, those parents whose children attend Knowstics Academy fork out a staggering US$3 000 for the first term before parting ways with US$2 000 in the other terms.

Despite these and many other disparities, the two institutions, however, share a common denominator — both produces excellent “O” and “A” level results despite the different learning environments.

In the past three or so years, they surpassed expectations, with Knowstics registering 100 percent pass rates in both the “O” and “A” level Zimsec and Cambridge examinations.

Emmanuel High students did not disappoint, registering an 86,27 percent pass rate in the “O” level examination. Students from the school also did well and were ranked number 46 in Zimsec’s top 100 “A” level schools.

Below are profiles of the institutions that are surprisingly producing excellent pass rates despite the disparities between the private and public schools.

Sandwiched between two mountain ranges in a scenic and serene environment in the Manyore area, an educational revolution has been quietly taking place at Knowstics.

Over the years, the academy has been producing impressive results, a factor which was attributed by Mr William Mukuwapasi, the director of the academy, to a number of factors.

“There is a lot of commitment and diligence from both the students, teachers and everyone else who is associated with the institution. Apart from the strong religious and cultural ethos, we are determined to change the education sector. We aim to equip our students not only with knowledge but also with life skills,” Mr Mukuwapasi said.

To achieve this goal, the school came up with a number of previously unknown measures that have contributed immensely to the successes which the institution is enjoying.

Apart from the theoretical subjects, the academy also offers practical subjects like Fashion and Fabrics, Agriculture and Computer studies.

“We produce a complete individual. From our school, students can go out there and create employment opportunities for themselves and other people, in line with the Zim-Asset goals,” said Mr David Maunga, the institution’s headmaster.

Students are taught piggery, fashion and fabrics, beef production, among other skills.

Form Four students sit for an International Computer Drivers Licence certificate whilst “A” Level students sit for a diploma in the same professional course.

A tour of the institution revealed that the academy has arguably one of the best-equipped classroom laboratories in the country.

Teachers at the institution are highly motivated and are given performance-based contracts.

“Teachers will always perform if they are well-paid. Apart from the wages, our teachers are given financial rewards if the students they teach excel. Only last week, one of our teachers walked away with US$1 400 after the students performed well in the 2014 November Zimsec examinations,” added Mr Maunga.

One interesting aspect of the school management is that it does not have class monitors or prefects and does not subject the students to either manual or corporal punishment.

“This practice of appointing prefects only gives birth to bullying. Our students manage themselves and there is no need for us to create such structures which gives other students an unfair advantage,” added Mr Maunga.

Unlike some schools that only enrol pupils that would have done exceptionally well in Grade Seven, Knowstics has earned a reputation for transforming average pupils into excellent students.

Patience Bishi, who was the institution’s best O Level student last year with seven As and a B, had came out with 11 units in Grade 7.

Patient finished Form 4 in three years.

On average, the academy enrols pupils with 11 units.

Another student, Kudzanai Nheweyembwa, got 19 units in Grade Seven.

She went on to get six As at “O” Level and is now studying English Literature, Divinity and History at “A” Level.

“We rarely enrol pupils with four units. Instead, our average units are 11 but we transform such average students into best performers. For A Level, we even enrol those with Cs at O Level and help them come out with flying colours,” Mr Maunga said.

The 400 students’ welfare is well-catered for with meals that equals and even surpasses those that are served by some of the so-called five-star hotels.

The school boasts a large, modern dining hall and a well-equipped kitchen which is complete with its own bakery.

Six decent meals are served to the students on a daily basis and the school’s meal card reads like a five-star hotel menu.

As a result of both the students’ upkeep and the pass rates, the academy attracts students from as far afield as Swaziland, Zambia and Mozambique, among other countries.

According to Mr Maunga, the majority of the students’ parents are based in the diaspora.

But like every other institution, Knowstics has its fair share of challenges.

“Our biggest challenge is to motivate our students who are from financially stable backgrounds. Some of the students even drive top-of-the-range vehicles during holidays and might not be motivated to read since they already have what they want in life,” Mr Mukwapasi said.

Despite the privileged backgrounds, the students still work very hard, culminating in some of the teachers at the institution scooping local and international awards.

In the 2013 Zimsec examinations, Mr Maunga emerged as the best Geography teacher in the country. Several other teachers also did the same in Business Studies, Divinity and Accounts.

Two of the institution’s teachers were adjudged to be the best teachers in the world after their students had done exceptionally well in the Cambridge examinations. Messrs Mawoneni and Chaeruka won the History and Dinity accolades respectively.

Emmanuel High is on the other side of the educational divide.

Located in Ruwange, one of the most neglected and remote parts of Nyanga, the school’s story is that of sheer determination, commitment and hard work on the part of both the students, the teachers and the parents.

Unlike the well-to-do parents who send their children to Knowstics, the parents of the majority of the students that are studying at Emmanuel are not well-heeled.

Instead, some of them struggle to raise the school fees, a factor which prompted the school authorities to introduce payment plans.

With a total enrolment of 640 students, the Emmanuel High students are not served hearty breakfasts.

Instead, they are compelled to eat porridge and are served three, not-so-decent meals.

The school’s dining hall is not well-furnished and the students have to sit on old wooden benches.

Unlike Knowstics students whose food is served in expensive plates, Emmanuel students eat their food from cheap plastic plates.

Sadza and either beef or beans is mostly served to the students.

Mr Kenneth Mutukumira, the school’s deputy headmaster, said that the students are not distracted by the seemingly impoverished environs.

“The students know that they are here to learn and not to feast. In the past, our students used to see themselves as inferior to other students due to the fact that they are from a remote rural school. After counselling and giving them career guidance, they can now compete favourably with students from other schools,” Mr Mutukumira said.

The school’s enrolment policy is the same with the one which is employed by Knowstics Academy.

When enrolling for Form 1, the school rarely enrol pupils with four units at Grade 7 since such pupils would have been “snatched” by such schools as Rusape’s St Faiths and Nyanga High.

“It is rare for us to enrol pupils with four units. Mostly, we get those pupils with six or more units. We, however, transform these average students into better-performing students,” added Mr Mutukumira.

Mr Mutukumira added: “When we enrol the pupils with say 21 units, we sit down with them and tell them to forget about the Grade 7 results.

“We give them a fresh start and I am happy to say that the trick is doing wonders for us.”

In the past, students from the school who would have performed well at O Level were often enticed by other schools.

The deputy headmaster said the school has managed to reverse the trend.

“Previously, our best O Level students went on to enrol at such schools as Nyanga and St Faith for A Level. I am happy to say that last year we retained our best O Level students.”

According to Mr Mutukumira, this is a sign that the students now have faith in their own school.

In the November 2014 Zimsec O Level examinations, Trust Bowa was the best student with 10 As and a B.

Two students managed 15 points at A Level but the biggest chunk of the students got between 14 and 13 points.

Unlike teachers that are employed by private colleges who are given incentives, teachers at Emmanuel are driven by the desire to have their children pass.

The modest school is focusing on improving both the O and A Level pass rates.

Emmanuel High School was formed in 1965 by missionaries from Northern Ireland.

Previously, the school was run by the Elim Pentecostal Church before the church handed over the school to Government.

 

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