The Sunday Mail
Emerging from a shed, a young man in overalls hands over a toolbox to an elderly man.
Under instruction from the elderly man, the youngster inspects a car engine before giving his views on what might have contributed to the engine being faulty.
The elderly man nods in agreement, instructs the young men how to mend the fault. After a lengthy period in which the pair exchanged notes and attended to the vehicle, the car is then started and test driven.
The above scenario is a daily errand at Knowstics International Boys Academy — a unique international boys’ college which is revolutionary in its thrust on closing the skills gap. Located in the cool environs of the Manyore area of Nyanga, the academy, which is one of the best-performing schools in the country, is offering a curriculum that prepares “boys to become men.”
Armed with a curriculum that seeks to close the knowledge versus skills gap, the college-which opened its doors during the first school term of the year-is seeking to produce students that will be ushered on the job market. Apart from the usual subjects, the students are taught electrical engineering, joinery, structural engineering and horticulture.
Animal husbandry, creative design, financial literacy and media and designing are some of the subjects that are covered.
Students are also taught the basics in fitting and turning, automotive engineering, marketing and garment construction.
Mrs Edith Mukuwapasi, the Knowstics Academy Principal, is impressed with the way the boys are responding to the new teaching methods.
“Besides the usual subjects, our boys are taught survival skills that they will use when they finally leave this place. Our broad curriculum ensures that our students can conquer unforeseen challenges in the future, be it in the sciences, business or social sciences arena,” Mrs Mukuwapasi said.
Apart from the academics, students are being taught the practical aspects of agriculture, construction, food processing and design technology among others.
When The Sunday Mail visited the college last week, clearly excited students were being taught both the theoretical and practical aspects of engineering, architecture and horticulture among others.
“When I came here, I did not have any practical knowledge regarding the simple things that we do in life every day. Apart from the theories, we are introduced to real-life work situations,” Malvin Moyo, a student at the college said.
He said when he leaves school, he will venture into business.
“From here I’m going to start my own engineering firm. We are taught most of the basics and it will not be difficult for me to start something of my own,” Moyo said.
A closer look at the academy’s thrust reveals that it is premised on Maoist theories of survival and discipline. According to Mrs Mukuwapasi, the principles of survival and discipline fundamentally changed the fortunes of China. She said that the Chinese theories will be blended with the Zimbabwean values of “unhu.”
“We will be able to provide an environment that encourages personal growth, confidence building and develop character in our students,” added Mrs Mukuwapasi.
In an effort to make sure that the academy realises its goals, some of its teachers were attached to educational institutions in the United Arab Emirates and India where they learned how to get the best out of boys.
“I noticed that most of the students in this country are not disciplined. I have personally been to India where I learnt how educational institutions can set learning environment that best suit boys. The way we must teach boys is totally different from the way we teach girls,” added Mrs Mukuwapasi.
The college has a first of its kind research centre whose purpose is to develop critical thinking as well as feedback skills. The centre will go a long way in providing hands-on skills and experience in agriculture, carpentry and building.
As a result of studies, the students now value creativity and innovative thinking. They are also acquiring transferrable skills which will enable them to make sustainable connections in a broad and competitive world. At the research centre, students carry research in agro based (field and animal sciences), structural design and technology.
The institution is working towards establishing an international institute of science and technology by 2020.
Among the institution’s modern structures are dormitories, dining halls and computer laboratories.
Swimming pools, an entertainment area, gyms, a sports field and even a mini golf course.
In the institution’s girls section, Knowstics has, in the past three years, surpassed expectations, registering 100 percent pass rates in both the “O” and “A” level Zimsec and Cambridge examinations.
One of the students, Patience Tafadzwa Bishi was adjudged to the best student among those that sat for both the Zimsec and Cambridge November 2016 A- Level chemistry examinations. She also scored As in Biology and Maths.
In the 2013 Zimsec examinations, Mr Maunga, the academy’s headmaster emerged as the best Geography teacher in the country. Several other teachers also did the same in Business Studies, Divinity and Accounts. Again in 2013, two of the institution’s teachers were adjudged to be the best teachers in the world in their respective subjects after their students had done exceptionally well in the Cambridge international examinations.
Messrs Mawoneni and Chaeruka were adjudged to the best History and Divinity teachers. Teachers at the institution are highly motivated and are given performance-based contracts. The school came up with a number of previously unknown measures that have contributed immensely to the successes which the institution is enjoying.
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. 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.