Hot sitting: Quantity or quality?

Emmanuel Kafe
“School development authorities have forgotten their mandate of assisting in improving education. They focus on corruptly buying materials, buses and trucks through tenders they award themselves instead of building classroom blocks.”

Rodrick Mashamba (16) and Susan Mashamba (17) are Form Three and Four students.

They recently transferred to Harare at the beginning of the second term.

After relocating from their rural area in Mutoko, they thought their academic pursuits would be much better in Harare’s high density suburbs.

In Mutoko, they had been walking 8km to and from school.

Little did they know that education in the city has its own difficulties.

They had no idea they would have limited time to study at the Harare school.

Their first day at school in Harare was hectic and confusing.

The duo recently recounted their maiden day. Susan was told she would come to school in the morning and Rodrick would come to school in the afternoon for the next seven days.

“Sir, does it mean I will come to school every day at 2pm?” he raised his hand, wanting clarification.

“School starts at 12 noon,” the teacher responded.

As his class gave way to the morning class, he joined others outside class, to play a plastic ball.

It seemed like everything was coming in a flash to him and he had many unanswered questions.

How does one learn in the afternoon only? We are so many and isn’t the class going to be very noisy?

This is the order of the day in Harare’s high density educational institutions (both primary and secondary), which have been characterised by “hot-sitting” or “double-sitting”.

Hot-sitting or double sessioning is a practice where some students learn in the morning and then make way for another group which comes to school in the afternoon.

Urban legend has it that the term “double-session schooling” is called “hot-seating” because the seats never have time to cool down.

The demand for education in Zimbabwe far outweigh the supply.

According to a Schools Infrastructure Audit conducted by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in 2014, Zimbabwe faces a massive shortage of basic education facilities and requires an additional 2 056 primary and secondary schools to meet the growing demand.

This has created a situation where some students attend classes in the morning and others in the afternoon such that they can share the classrooms and the few resources at their disposal.

Schools, mostly Government ones, have resorted to this arrangement since their services are sought after by the majority considering that they charge moderately low tuition and levies.

As a result, quantity is promoted at the expense of quality education.

A quick survey conducted by The Sunday Mail Society last week showed that most schools in high-density residential areas start classes at 07.30am and finishes at 12.10pm, to pave way for classes that start at 12.30pm and ends at 5pm.

Parents and teachers are concerned. They feel the system is disadvantaging their children as they do not have enough time to study and concentrate on extra-curricular activities.

One parent said most schools are concentrating on buying vehicles instead of constructing more classrooms.

“School development authorities have forgotten their mandate of assisting in improving education. They focus on corruptly buying materials, buses and trucks through tenders they award themselves instead of building classroom blocks,” fumed the parent who preferred anonymity.

Another fretful parent, Ms Mavis Ruswa, said although she is concerned, she has no option as the educational delivery system in high-density areas is deteriorating.

“I cannot afford sending my children to boarding schools that charge much higher fees per term. I have primary and secondary school going children and half of their weekday is allocated to playing since they mostly go to school in the afternoon.

“At times I force them to read in the morning or make them attend private tutorials during the holidays or weekends,” she said.

A teacher who refused to be named for professional reasons said the hot-sitting system greatly disadvantages students, especially with the new curriculum as time is limited for them to grasp concepts.

“At our school we have 40 classes with 10 classrooms per stream, excluding two science laboratories. The laboratories have run out of chemicals and apparatus for experiments,” he said.

“Nearly all times we will be enrolling students since they can be easily accommodated. And each sitting gets a 15-minute break in-between the lessons,” he added.

Educationists observe that learners in the afternoon sessions enter the classroom exhausted and find it hard to learn, especially in summer when it is hot.

Mr Robin Mapuranga, an educationist and former teacher, said the greatest problem experienced by teachers is the fact that in the afternoon session, the teachers have to teach exhausted, dirty and hungry pupils as most of these students come to school an hour earlier to play in the verandahs or playground.

“Even teachers and pupils lack a sense of belonging because they do not really socialise at the level that sporting activities can offer,” he said.

This, it seems has a negative impact on the education system, especially in urban schools.

Parents feel it is high time for the Government to prioritise the construction of more classrooms and libraries in order to eradicate double sessioning and improve the provision of quality education.

According to the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council’s Statistics Results Analysis Reports, schools that do not have hot-sitting have higher pass rates.

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