School Development in Zimbabwe
June 2 2016

The Special Needs class at Mkoba 4 Primary School in Gweru has returned for the new term.  The students are being taught the National Curriculum in a specialised manner, appropriate to the various learning disabilities of the 24 children in the class. 

This term in mathematics, the course aims to teach students to be able to:

  1. read, count and write numbers from 0 to 1,000
  2. use the greater than, less than, and equals signs in comparing numbers
  3. use the plus sign, minus sign, multiplication sign, and division sign in any given numbers
  4. identify Zimbabwean currency up to $10.00
  5. convert cents to dollars and vice versa
  6. give composition of amounts
  7. calculate the change in money transactions
  8. identify, label, and draw plain and solid shapes

In English, the pupils should be able to:

  1. read words, full sentences, and short stories fluently and correctly
  2. read and answer comprehension questions from stories
  3. write correct spellings of words learnt
  4. construct meaningful sentences using words learnt

The Special Needs class is divided into two groups, according to performance level; group two being the highest performing.  Lessons typically include activities to enhance learning, with ALERT staff and volunteers assisting the teacher during those activities. 

Over the past month, group one have been tasked a variety of activities in both English and mathematics including:

  • Imitating action words e.g. drinking, washing, sweeping, and then matching a picture to the word.  Most of the students grasped the idea, however some were having difficulty matching words with pictures.  
  • Learning about occupations i.e. driver, teacher, builder, dressmaker.  The students were taught what each one does e.g. a driver drives people where they need to go, a teacher helps people learn. They then had to orally repeat (without help from the teacher, staff or volunteers) what they had learnt.
  • Learning about the days of the week.  Students had to name the days of the week and say what they do on each day.  Some examples given were: Sunday, go to church; Monday, go to school; Saturday, playing games with friends.  The children clearly enjoyed this lesson, as it gave them a chance to talk about their own lives.
  • Reading a story about friendship.  Students then had to answer questions orally relating to the story.  They enjoyed this exercise, as the children could relate to it as they have friendships of their own and therefore answered the questions brilliantly.

Meanwhile, group two had more challenging activities that included reading a variety of stories, each with a different focus, e.g. family life, occupations etc, before answering comprehension questions relating to the story.

Both groups tackled mathematics activities together, which included:

  • Maths problems using money i.e. if an item cost 90 cents and you paid using $1.00, how much change would you receive?  Students struggled with the concept, especially those in group one, so there was need to repeat the lesson.  During the second lesson, a more individualised teaching approach was used.  This proved effective, and the students were able to grasp the concept more easily, correctly solving the problems they were given.
  • Learning about the number of coins in a given amount.  Students were given maths problems to solve i.e. how many one cent coins are in $1.00; 10 cent coins in $1.00, etc.  As it was seen that students previously responded better in a one-to one setting, this approach was used again.  Real money was used to consolidate the students’ learning.
  • Learning about the greater than, less than, and equals signs.  Students were given problems to solve i.e. 20 cent and 50 cent were written down and students had to put the correct sign between the two numbers.  This lesson proved to be difficult, especially regarding the greater than and less than signs.  The lesson is to be repeated again to ensure that students gain a full understanding of the concept.

About Mkoba 4 Primary School

The Government run Mkoba 4 Primary School provides education for approximately 2,200 students.  Our work here currently focusses on assisting the teacher of the school’s Special Needs Class.  The school currently has one qualified teacher to host the class of 24 children, aged 9-14 years, with a variety of learning disabilities.  Whilst the teacher delivers the national curriculum in a specialised manner appropriate for the needs of these children, staff and volunteers provide children with individual attention that helps the child to focus on what they are being taught and giving them a better understanding of the lesson.

About Our School Development Projects

Our aim is to increase the capacity of the schools with which we work to offer higher learning possibilities for their pupils.  All the schools surrounding our project sites are severely resource limited with classes that are over-crowded and lacking educational materials.  Our projects therefore focus on: school building and refurbishment to create improved learning environments; resource provision of educational materials needed to enhance lessons, and teacher assistance to help teachers plan and run lessons more effectively.  All programmes are operated in agreement with the school in question, and with approval from relevant educational boards.

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