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Concern over learners missing lessons in Gwanda District

SCHOOL authorities at Ntalale Secondary School in Gwanda District have raised concern over learners who are missing lessons to go to healing and prayer sessions conducted by a prophetess operating in the area.

Parents from the area are reportedly taking their children to the prophet during school hours. Some of the learners go for a week without attending school. Other pupils are attending school on empty stomachs after being instructed by the prophetess to fast so that the prayer sessions can be effective.

The matter has been reported to the Gwanda District Schools Inspector Mr Sydney Sibanda. Speaking during a Gwanda Rural District Development Committee meeting last week, Mr Sibanda said the matter was under investigation. Mr Sibanda invited other stakeholders who attended the meeting to assist with strategies to resolve the matter. He said schools do not need such hurdles at a time when they were trying to make up for lost learning time.

Some parents are suspected to be taking their children to the prophetess to prepare them for public examinations. The absenteeism of learners has become a major concern for teachers who are racing against time to prepare learners for examinations. The prophetess, who started practicing last year, has become very popular in the area as many flock to her to seek spiritual assistance. She operates from a mountaintop. When a Chronicle news crew visited the area, she was not working on that day.

Ntalale Secondary School Development Committee chairperson, Ms Agnes Mathe said they were set to hold a meeting with parents over the matter.

“The school authorities informed us that there is a lot of absenteeism from learners. When the learners come back, they tell their teachers that their parents would have taken them to the mountain to consult a prophet,” she said.

“This matter is really concerning as it is having a severe impact on the learning process. Last week a Form 4 pupil failed to register for her final examinations as her parents had taken her to the prophet. As the SDC we have engaged the community leadership over the matter and from there we will hold a meeting with parents over the matter.”

She said some parents even call their children during lessons to take them to the mountain. Ward 11 councillor, Cllr Coster Ndlovu said the problem intensified over the past month. He said some parents were reportedly taking their children to the prophetess in order to prepare them for the forthcoming examinations to ensure that they pass.

Mr Ndlovu said some pupils can go for a week without attending school as they will be at prayer sessions at the mountain top. He said some children go and camp at the mountain for days while receiving prayers and healing.

“We are just coming from a Covid-19 induced long holiday when children lost out on a learning time. Our children in rural areas were the worst affected as most didn’t have access to alternative learning platforms. Now children are being deprived of their right to education by parents. Instead of maximising on the limited time which is left children are losing out. This will make it difficult for them to be well prepared for exams,” he said.

Mr Ndlovu said he received a report on the matter from the school headmistress. He said the prophetess has been operating in the area since last year.

“We can’t afford to have children missing out on learning time over such issues. This issue has to be dealt with as a matter of urgency,” he said.

Tshibi-Ntalale village head, Mr James Sebata said the prophet came to the area last year after requesting permission from the area’s leaders. He said her services were attracting many people.

“This prophet has assisted many people and there is nothing wrong with her operating in the area but it’s concerning if parents are taking their children to consult during lesson times. As the traditional leadership of the area, we are not pleased by this development. Parents must prioritise the education of their children as that is their future,” he said.

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