SPEECH AND PRIZE GIVING DAY 4 OCTOBER 2019: ELLIS ROBINS SCHOOL
Directors of Ceremonies, Mrs Chanakira and Mrs Chabata
The Chairperson of the School Development Committee, Mrs Ramani and Executive members of his Committee here present;
Mr Chigwida and Representatives of Former Students of this School;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
And the Gentlemen of Ellis Robins School, the Dolphins
I welcome you to the Ellis Robins School Merit Awards Ceremony. This ceremony is important as it helps to reflect on the achievements and successes of the past year. The event today will also help us to refocus and restrategize for even greater achievements in future. Ellis Robins School is a great institution with a proud history and its corridors have been trampled by such notable greats who have featured in many facets in the market place.
I am pleased that all the congregants are gathered here to celebrate the achievements of our teachers, students and the school community at large.
I am sure you would want your son’s name to be among some of the greatest personalities of our time. Ellis Robins has rich traditions stretching back to pre-independence days. We have to embrace the distinctive character of Ellis Robins popularly known as Fush or the Dolphins. The first Speech Night and Prize Giving (as it was called then) was held on the 17th of October 1958, ie 61 years to date and we have since transformed it into the School Merit Awards Day that is now celebrated during the day. This year we are celebrating our successes or achievements in a very difficult economic environment and we have to learn to accept our situation and live within our means. We may not have grandiose prizes to give to our award winners but our spirit to scale greater heights should not be extinguished nor diminished. Ellis Robins will always live by their motto “Esse Quam Videri” ie Be what you seem to be. We are not fake, we are not pretenders.
Enrolment and Staffing
Our school has classes from Form 1 to Form Six with a total student enrolment of about 704. The total number of teachers who guide them through their various disciplines is 44. Currently the school is facing some challenges because we are not getting replacements for teachers who leave through retirements or resignations. However, we are grateful to the parents through their School Development Committee because they quickly intervene to give us replacements whenever we request for them. At the moment The School Development Committee engages teachers as relief for the vacancies that have not yet been filled by the Ministry.
Our theme going into the future (2020) should be: “Persevering in the face of Daunting Challenges”. The new curriculum is a challenge but intended to provide our students with an education that is responsive to the needs of the 21st century. There might be some people who still regard education as based only on strong content knowledge i.e. bookish knowledge. That is yesterday’s thinking! Schools are now there to provide holistic development of individuals and not the bookworms as what is currently obtaining. At this school we have since moved on and we have embraced new subjects to our curriculum, for instance, Combined Science, Heritage Studies and Physical Education which are examinable at the end of four years of education. We also have a vibrant Arts and Culture Department to promote social, moral and emotional development
The school is also playing its part in the promotion of STEM subjects. The enrolment of Science students at Lower Six has risen. The school has embraced the new curriculum and now offers pure Sciences starting from Form Three. This is line with world trends and at this point allow me to quote HE the late President of the Republic of Zimbabwe when he said, “There is need to transform the structure and curriculum of the country’s education system in order to adequately meet the evolving development aspirations. This should see greater focus being placed on the teaching and learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, including….entrepreneurship.” The new curriculum should also help us to cater for students who have different abilities, different gifts, different needs and different dreams. I will repeat an anecdote that I gave to this congregation two years ago: that if you judge the fish by its ability to climb trees, then it will spend the rest of its life thinking that it is stupid. We were in the past providing a one size fits all paradigm. It is time we stopped teaching fish how to climb trees.
Our Pass Rates
Our “O” Level pass rates are very competitive when we compare ourselves with sister schools in the District. However, the “O” Level pass rate needs to be seen against a backdrop of previous performances of the last five years. The “O” Level pass rate was at 19,7% in 2014, rising to 27,0% in 2015, then to 30,3% in 2016, 29.5% in 2017 and 35% in 2018. This shows a determination to succeed by each successive group of students and their teachers for a solid five years in succession. The current “O” Level class of 2019 has promised me that they will improve on the current pass rate. Our best performing student in 2018 had 6 As and 2 Bₛ in last year’s “O” Level ZIMSEC results. I want to believe we can do better. It’s not an achievement that we are at all proud because our boys have the capacity to do better. The boys have promised that they will do better and their self belief will definitely contribute towards the realization of that desire. At “A” Level, we must admit that the current pass rates are lower than the national pass rates. The 2014 “A” Level pass rate was 80% but fell dramatically in 2015 to 54, 9% rising to 60,5% in 2016 and to 67% in 2017 but fell slightly in 2018 to 61,4%. These figures are low for a school that has a glorious past of its pre-independence years and the post independence years of the 1980s and 1990s. Our best “A” Level student in 2018 had 12 points in a bad year of our performance. Nevertheless, we have to employ strategies to improve our pupils’ performance and our teachers, parents and of course, the Old Boys Association will continue to play their part.
Performance in Sport, Arts and Culture
Performances at District Level: We are champions in the a) U/17 Basketball competitions b) U/17 Volleyball competitions
Performances at Provincial Level: We are the champions in a) the NASH organized U/20 tournament, b) Junior Debate competitions. These teams went on to represent Harare at National competitions.
Table Tennis and Badminton; Our boys take part in these ‘minority’ sports. In a Harare organized event Ellis Robins came third out of 9 schools at a tournament held at St Georges beating our perennial rivals PE and Allan Wilson.
Excelling sports students: a) Josiah Letala excelled at a tournament hosted by the Tennis Association of Zimbabwe and he was selected into the Zim team, b) Stanley Musemwa was chosen into the Zim U/16 basketball team after excelling at Provincial level.
National Level: a) Rugby in Mutare Ellis Robins came out number 3 at Mutare Boys High b) The Debate team also came out number3 at the National Debate competitions also held in Mutare,
In the sporting arena we have a mixed bag. Ellis Robins is a school in which a lot is expected. Sadly we have not been able to match those expectations. The Old Boys have seen this and have started doing something about it. Some parents have also seen it, the Ministry Officials, some well-wishers and other stakeholders have seen it as well and intervention measures should be put in place to awaken the giant that Ellis Robins once was. We are surely poised for greater things to come. The school has lost its ethos, its character and its self-belief. Some old boys (who are now fathers) were no longer enrolling their children here. They had lost faith in the school, they had lost trust. But, there is palpitation in the air and a refreshing feeling of self-belief that should inspire us to realize our dreams. Some of the Old Boys are here and they are dreaming big.
Our greatest challenges, ladies, gentlemen and the boys are the overstretched school facilities. The upgrading and development of sporting facilities are hampered by lack of funding. Our revenue base has continued to shrink largely due to the difficult economic conditions currently prevailing in this country. In the long term we have plans to upgrade and maintain the existing sporting facilities for the benefit of sport hungry students. We want eventually to have sports facilities that are second to none and some of the old boys are coming up with brilliant ideas of how we can do this. The school hall also needs sprucing up for indoor activities as well as its gymnasium. The sports equipment, even for such mundane disciplines such as athletics, is grossly inadequate. At the moment our students have to make do with what is available which definitely impacts on their performance.
Finally, ladies, gentlemen and the boys the school was beginning to gain notoriety because of the misdemeanours of a handful of boys. Misbehaviours cause lots of distractions to the culprits themselves and to the generality of students whose school’s name gets to be tarnished by these miscreants. Serious among the issues of misdemeanor are cases of absenteeism and bunking of lessons. There is a lack of direction among this group and we are inviting parents to play their part and put a stop to this nonsensical behavior. A close monitoring of their school work at home by parents could be quite a revelation about the learning behaviours of their children.
Finally, I wish to remind ourselves again that we are gathered to celebrate the achievements of our students and teachers, our sons during the 2019 academic year in a somewhat difficult environment. I wish to congratulate the award winners today for a job well done.
I thank you!