Investigating the reading comprehension ability of Grade 9 (Form 2) learners at Bulawayo Central District high schools in Zimbabwe

  • Thenjiwe Gumede
  • Naomi Adjoa Yeboah Boakye University of Pretoria
Keywords: Reading comprehension, Private schools, Government schools, Zimbabwean schools


Reading ability is important in education, as it transcends all forms of learning. Poor reading ability usually means that a learner will encounter academic challenges and perform poorly at school. Grade 9 (form 2) learners in Zimbabwe were thought to have been disadvantaged during Zimbabwe’s economic turmoil from 2006 to 2008. There were so many disruptions and instances of absenteeism in government schools during that period that these learners, who were in grade R at the time, may not have received adequate reading instruction. The aim of the study was to investigate the reading comprehension levels of grade 9 (form 2) learners in Bulawayo Central District high schools in Zimbabwe to determine whether they were disadvantaged by the disruptions, and to what extent. Quantitative and qualitative methods were used to collect data to establish the learners’ reading proficiency and to determine what factors influenced their reading proficiency. Forty-eight learners from government schools and 22 from private schools voluntarily wrote a reading comprehension test and provided narratives on their reading development. The test results were analysed using ANOVA and the narratives were analysed using content analysis. The test results showed that the reading comprehension level of the cohort of grade 9 (form 2) learners in government schools was below that expected for grade 4. The narratives of the government school learners were also fraught with errors, whereas private school learners wrote better narratives. The study therefore showed that the reading proficiency of the government school learners who were in grade R in 2008 was below the required level. The learners’ reading development seems to have been adversely affected by the national disruptions. Recommendations are made for interventions to improve the reading proficiency of grade 9 learners in government schools before they pursue tertiary education.

Author Biographies

Thenjiwe Gumede
Thenjiwe Gumede is a lecturer at Hillside Teacers' College in Zimbabwe. Her research focuses on learners' reading comprehension.
Naomi Adjoa Yeboah Boakye, University of Pretoria
Naomi A.Y. Boakye is a senior lecturer in the Unit for Academic Literacy at the University of Pretoria. Her research areas include academic literacy, academic reading, translanguaging, and English second language use. She teaches at honours and first-year levels and supervises Masters and Doctoral students.