Schools across the country have traditionally used entrance tests that were conducted at a fee to select prospective Form One pupils for the following year.
In recent years, however, controversy has shrouded the otherwise noble exercise with some schools accused of deliberately using the tests to rake in phenomenal profits.
It was against this backdrop that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education recently intervened and banned entrance tests and ordered schools to use Grade Seven examination results for their selection processes.
Schools around the country were charging between $20 and $200 for pupils to go through the selection processes.
Some parents who spoke to NewsDay said they welcomed government intervention as they were being forced to dig deep into their pockets to pay for entrance examinations at several schools where their children had to fight it out with thousands others for a few places.
Edgar Chiwashira said he later discovered that the exercise was designed in such a way that thousands of parents would pay for their children to write the tests when there were just a few places for the pupils.
“Imagine a situation where 2 000 pupils are invited to write an entrance test for $50 when the school only has 100 places for Form One, for example. It’s plain robbery. It means the school is going to make $100 000,” he said.
He added that the government intervention was long overdue and he was happy that action had finally been taken.
Many parents were forced to pay more as their children had to write the entrance tests at several schools to increase their chances of securing Form One places.
Some schools invited as many as 2 500 pupils for interviews when they could accommodate only a 10th of that number in their facilities.
Another parent, Janet Mwatsikesimbe, said her daughter — who is now doing Form One — had to attend entrance interviews at six schools and she was only accepted at one.
“I had paid $240 in total for all the entrance tests, and she was rejected at five of those schools which I thought was unfair.
When we went for the entrance test, I was shocked by the huge numbers of candidates who also wanted Form One places,” she said.
She said although entrance tests were good in that they afforded schools an opportunity to prepare before they took in new Form One pupils, their greed has been their bane and she welcomed the government’s decision.
Instead of using the exercise to properly screen competent students, school heads were ripping off struggling parents, she said.