Parents of children who should by now be enrolled for grade one, have expressed discontent over primary schools’ refusal to admit so-called ‘late babies’ – children born after June 2012.
The official policy of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary education states that schools only accept children born in the first part of the year for grade one, with the cut off months ranging from June to August as determined by each individual school. Some parents who spoke to Harare News were not happy saying that forcing their children to spend another year in Early Childhood Development (ECD) and spending longer at home stretches their financial resources too thin. They also complained saying that it stalls their child’s progress.
Former headmaster G.J Kamhuka says the reason for the acceptance of children born in the first part of the year is because they will be more mature than those born in the latter half.
“It’s easier for the older children to take to lessons from the beginning, whereas it might take up to third term for ‘late babies’ to grasp what they’re taught. I advise parents not to rush their children but place them in their right age groups,” he said.
Kudzai Musendo of Arcadia, whose son was denied entry at a school in the area, says the practice is unfair. “I am forced to pay more as my child is not progressing to the next level until the so-called ‘correct’ age in the following year,” she said, adding, “They think these ‘late babies’ are too young to grasp the education system. This defies all logic! How can a child born in June be old enough to be admitted while the one born in July of the same year is regarded as too young?” she queried. Musendo said that adding to her woes was the fact that schools ask for proof of residence like water or electricity bills, as a requirement to admit children.
Takudzwa Bhero of Mbare disagrees saying that education principles need to be followed to avoid age gap discrepancies. “It is true that this is happening – my daughter encountered it in Hurungwe. But whatever cut-off age proposed would still raise the same concerns from parents whose children do not fall within the period,” he said.
Clever Mtetwa, the headmaster of Moffat Primary School, says it is their school’s policy to have cut-off ages for entry into ECD A, ECD B, and Grade One. He explains, “For the 2016 enrolment, children born between June 30 2011 and June 30 2012 are eligible for ECD A entry. Children born between June 30 2010 and June 30 2011, and those born between June 30 2009 and June 30 2010 are eligible for ECD B and grade one respectively.” He castigated some parents and guardians for disregarding intake dates, saying that prior to enrolment they notify parents of the dates and ages in writing, but to the school’s surprise some parents come to seek a place in January for a child considered too young and express shock when their children are not accepted into the class that parents hope for.
Mtetwa said schools are zoned and only accept children for primary school living within a radius of 5 kilometres, and 10 kilometres for secondary school. He criticised parents who lie about their place of residence in order to get a place for their children, saying that if something happens to the child it would be difficult to locate the parents quickly. “Though we accept children from outside our zone in some instances, first preference is given to those in our catchment area. It may appear to be a rejection but it is always better for parents to develop the schools in their areas to reach the standards they seek elsewhere,” added Mtetwa.
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Image credit: Carron Tambala