The Sunday Mail
Tendai Chara —
The mention of Chikwingwizha Secondary School will, without doubt, draw blanks on the faces of many Zimbabweans, even those active in the education sector.
Chikwingwizha has, however, somehow retained its name on the yearly list of the country’s top performing O-Level schools.
Over the past five years, the school has been among the Top 20 Ordinary Level schools, performing better than some of the traditional giants.
In the 2013 and 2014 examinations, Chikwingwizha was rated the 16th best school in the country with an 88,1 pass rate and in the 2016 examinations, it dropped to 21st position.
For a virtually unknown school, being ranked so highly is remarkable.
Recently, The Sunday Mail Extra paid the institution a visit to learn about the school’s formula for success.
Located some 10km from Shurugwi on the Gweru/Shurugwi Highway, Chikwingwizha — a Roman Catholic-run school — is veiled from the outside world with a woodland and flourishing flora hiding it from view.
Upon arriving at the institution’s well-manicured environs, one’s attention is naturally drawn to the huge, well-decorated chapel in which benches are neatly arranged.
The way the chapel is maintained is an early indication of cleanliness and order.
Interaction with pupils who were doing errands at the main administration block indicated a polite and disciplined student body.
Father Augustine Chirikadzi, the rector of the seminary, chronicled the institution’s history and gave answers to questions regarding the impressive O-Level results.
“First and foremost, this school is not an ordinary one. Instead, it is a minor seminary, a formation house that trains young boys who are on their way to priesthood. We do not only teach academic subjects. Ours is a holistic approach in which we teach morality and spirituality,” Fr Chirikadzi said.
Fr Chirikadzi believes some schools are not taking such aspects as spirituality in their approach to learning and that is where this institution has its edge.
“Although the majority of our students will not make it into priesthood, those that do not will, without doubt, become good, responsible citizens,” added Fr Chirikadzi. “We have a high work ethic. Our teachers are consistent and we have been with them for a long time. They are both dedicated and experienced.”
Fr Chirikadzi says the school has introduced a monthly rewards for pupils who excel.
“We try to encourage the students in every manner possible. Each and every student will be hoping to be among the top students, resulting in them studying hard,” added Fr Chirikadzi.
With an average of 40 students per class, the institution has seven highly qualified teachers, some of whom have been named as the best in Shurugwi district.
The school is now targeting a 100 percent pass rate. Unlike other schools that prefer pupils with four units at Grade Seven, Chikwingwizha is not selective when it comes to enrolment.
According to Fr Chirikadzi, some of the students that might have had struggled in primary level are among those that go on to perform well at the school.
Said Fr Chirikadzi: “We have students that come here with, say 36 units. After four years, these students will pass with flying colours. We motivate and encourage them and this is paying off.”
Chikwingwizha first opened its doors in 1963 and the pupils who elect to become priests go on to Chishawasha Mission, a major seminary.
Among the prominent people who attended Chikwingwizha are national hero Cde Josiah Tungamirai, prominent diplomat and scholar Dr Simbi Mubako, Mashonaland Central Resident Minister Advocate Martin Dinha, and Colonel (Retired) Claudious Makova.
Former Minister of Education, Sport and Culture Dzingai Mutumbuka taught at the institution.
As is the trend worldwide, the number of pupils opting for the priesthood after completing secondary school is very low.
The institution strictly caters for Roman Catholics.
“In a class of say 40, only three students might elect to join the priesthood.
“Priesthood is a calling and like I said before, even if our students do not become priests, they will still go out there and become good citizens.
“The dropping numbers of people who are becoming priests is a worldwide trend,” explained Fr Chirikadzi.
Fr Chirikadzi says the fact that the school does not offer Advanced Level has contributed significantly to the number of pupils not becoming priests.
“We have a decay in morality and once the students leave this place after Form Four, some of them will not become priests. In my view, the introduction of A-Levels at this institution will arrest this disturbing trend,” Fr Chirikadzi said.