By Boitumelo Koloi
Maseru — The high failure rate by 2013 Junior Certificate (JC) examinations candidates should be blamed on the government’s failure to implement schools’ inspection accordingly, teachers associations said.
Associations that spoke to the Lesotho Times this week said had the Ministry of Education and Training carried out inspection of schools as expected, the results would have been better.
Last week the Minister of Education, ‘Makabelo Mosothoane, announced the final examination results for JC where she announced that almost 30 percent of the over 20 000 candidates had failed.
“Out of the 20 894 candidates who sat for the examination in 2013 . . . 6 032, making up 28.9 percent, did not meet the minimum requirements for a pass,” Mosothoane said then.
Although the pass rate constitutes 71 percent of all the candidates, which is better than the previous year’s 68 percent, the fact that over 6 000 candidates failed has been received with indignation by teachers’ associations who feel that more could have been done to reduce such failure.
The President of the Progressive Association of Lesotho Teachers (PALT), Letsatsi Ntsibolane, said one of the main causes of the high failure rate was the fact that the ministry’s inspectorate is very weak.
“We have a very weak inspectorate in place hence the alarming figure of those who failed,” Ntsibolane said.
Ntsibolane teachers said constant oversight is needed in order to ensure adherence to their primary mandate of offering quality education “which is indicated by increased passing rates” adding that inspection plays a very important role towards improving the country’s education.
He said the ministry was failing to optimise its resources in carrying out schools’ inspection as the limited resources at the ministry’s disposal were not being used appropriately, since “the ministry seems to be targeting schools that do not necessarily need to be inspected”.
“The ministry has the habit of complaining that its resources are not sufficient to cater for all the schools yet they seem to be focused on schools that are already performing well at the expense of those with perpetual appalling performances,” Ntsibolane said.
The claims were also echoed by the Lesotho Association of Teachers (Lat) ’s president, Mosaletsane Kulehile, who said that inspection was not being utilised to address the needs at hand because “incompetent persons are being employed as inspectors”.
Kulehile cited incidents where people trained as primary school teachers get employed as high school inspectors and vice-versa.
He said by so doing, government was compromising quality education.
Kulehile also said that there were schools close to inspection centres whose performance “leaves much to be desired, which shows that the inspectors are not doing their job as expected”.
According to Kulehile, failure to inspect the schools means that their specific needs such as the resources needed by certain schools would not be accordingly identified and attended to, the effect of which would be poor results.
Meanwhile, Chief Education Inspector for Central Region, Maureen Nyathi, refuted the claims saying that schools’ performance was not necessarily dependent on inspection by the education ministry.
Nyathi said every school’s performance was the sole responsibility of its principal “who is the main inspector overseeing day-to-day operations at the school”.
“Therefore candidates’ failure cannot be attributed to lack of inspection by the ministry,” Nyathi said.
She also said claims that the ministry was failing to inspect all the schools were unfounded because “in the current financial year alone, 200 of about 340 post-primary schools have been visited for inspection”.
Nyathi also added that it was not true that the ministry was failing to visit schools that were performing badly, adding that instead those were the schools that were actually being visited more.
According to Nyathi, inspection formed just part of the success of education adding that there were other factors to consider for schools’ performance such as the teachers’ competence and willingness to produce positive results.
Inspection by the education ministry is a mirror-like process which reflects the school’s strengths and weaknesses hence the buck stops with the principals to ensure that the schools perform as expected, Nyathi said.