Exam results: How best to deal with poor grades

The Primary Leaving Examination and O-Level results released last week indicated that, generally, most candidates performed well. And is the practice, people tend to encourage, praise and give all manner of tribute to the star performers.

The Primary Leaving Examination and O-Level results released last week indicated that, generally, most candidates performed well. And is the practice, people tend to encourage, praise and give all manner of tribute to the star performers. However, those not so lucky to have excelled find themselves ignored, which only makes their condition worse. When not given special support, such students quietly continue to struggle because they are bogged down by the guilt of being failures and a disappointment to their parents. Education TimesLydia Atieno explores the best ways to deal with poor results.

According to Jackyline Irabagiza, a pastor, counsellor and matron at Martyrs Secondary School in Remera, Gasabo District, just like those who performed well, such students need attention, particularly to improve their self-esteem.

She says that rather than confronting your teen because of poor results, it is better to have a conversation that will make them feel that they have someone to lean on in challenging times.

Jerome Gasana, the Director-General of Workforce Development Authority (WDA), believes that each and every student is capable of doing well if they get the assistance they need.

For instance, he points out that continuous follow-up from parents should be the priority. He says parents should do this from the first day the child joins school up to the day they complete.

Gasana also says parents should not force students to take subjects that they are not interested in as this, to some extent, can contribute to poor results.

He notes that in case of failure in final national exams, such students can take up short courses such as entrepreneurship and many others, after which they can still go back and re-do the exams they had failed initially.

“Students should also get career guidance from mentors and other education experts so that they choose subjects that match their interest and bility,” he adds.

On the other hand, Paul Swaga, an English instructor at Akilah Institute in Kigali, says parents and teachers should collaborate to ensure that they come up with strategies to motivate students with poor grades to work harder.

One of such strategy, he says, is to guide the learner to formulate action plans aimed at improving academic performance.

“The learner may create a weekly schedule for research, revision and doing assignments. Some young people score low grades simply because they do not do adequate research and, they do not prioritise doing assignments,” he says.

Once the action plans have been set, Swaga notes that parents and teachers have to compel the learner to implement them by closely monitoring them.

He says when young people realise that they are fully supported and closely monitored by their parents and teachers, they become more responsible and hardworking. “As long as there is no gap between teachers and parents, chances are high that poor performers can get better grades.”

How best can they be helped?

Experts generally agree that retaking the course is the best option for some students whose poor performance may be a result of some factors that can be fixed.

Irene Mizero, the founder of Mizero Care Organisation, however, points out that in some cases, there are students who will never perform well no matter how much effort is put on them. She says, for such students, it is better to harness their potential in other fields such as entrepreneurship, leadership, sports and other extracurricular activities.

“Parents and teachers should work together for the success of such children. Assessing strengths and areas of improvement can help such a child improve,” he adds.

Erick Mugisha, an educationist at University of Rwanda’s College of Education, is of the view that it is important to share information about a student’s performance with their parents.

He says making it a point to discuss with them their child’s academic performance and general conduct is important as it is the best way to highlight areas where the child needs help.

“The more informed parents are, the more likely it is that students will get the necessary support at home,” he says.

“When teachers interact with parents, they should ensure that they share all the details needed to help the child be successful. Stay in constant touch with them, assign homework that requires parents’ involvement and gets them to participate more in their child’s education,” he adds.

Students and youth attending a career guidance session in Remera, Gasabo District, recently. It is important to find a mentor to guide students on how to improve their grades. 

What to know before jumping to conclusions

Irabagiza notes that, poor results come due to different factors. At times, a child may be capable of performing well, but due to some reasons, they end up performing poorly.

“In this case, parents ought to identify and directly address the underlying problems that could have led to poor performance, and this should be done with the help of the teachers, mentors and any other person who is responsible for the student,” she says.

Besides, Irabagiza argues that instead of punishing those with poor results, interrogating and giving specific advice on how such students can improve will do more good.

According to Emmanuella Mahoro, a psychologist and youth mentor, parents should understand that there are plenty of factors that can lead to or compromise academic success.

She points out that parents should know that their level of education, school infrastructure as well as genes can be sometimes the underlying factors hindering the child from excelling in academics no matter how much effort put in.

“Sometimes it’s important to seek guidance from mentors and psychologists if your child has failed completely. These professionals will scrutinise the child’s history and everything which could have contributed to the failure,” she says.

What the Ministry says

Janvier Gasana, the Director-General, Rwanda Education Board, says for those students who have not managed to perform well, there is always another chance for them to reseat the exams.

Gasana says teachers are supposed to design a ‘redo programme’ for such students. He says when a student fails, they shouldn’t lose hope as they can still do their best when more effort is put on the redo exams.

“Schools are supposed to develop programmes that suit each and every student who didn’t perform well previously,” he says.

However, he urges parents not to be harsh on their children whenever they fail to meet their expectations, saying, rather, they should sit down with them and have a conversation on what the next step should be.

“Parents should not think that this is the end of the world for their children, complaining and harassing them will dampen their morale further,” he adds.

Gasana says that before pointing a finger at their children, parents ought to assess their input and role because at times it’s some of their deeds that contribute to this failure.

He notes that when a parent sends their children to school, they should ensure that a child has all the items needed to learn, for instance, buying them all the scholastic materials besides giving them support and parental love.

“The mistake some parents make is to send students to school and expect the teacher to do everything. This cannot lead to success as both parties should be involved,” he says.

Their thoughts...


Sharon Mukamugema, mentor and teacher

Slow learners in most cases are the ones who end up performing poorly when they don’t get the needed support. They always have low self-esteem, and are too shy to participate in class discussions. As a good teacher, identifying such students and finding a way of helping them is important. Besides, encouranging them to speak out and get more involved in discussions can help improve their esteem and general performance.


Hamidou Uwikindi, teacher at Peace Initiative Programme, Kinyinya

No single student wouldn’t want to get good grades. But even those who may be very weak academically, with the help of teachers they can manage to improve in those weak areas. For any effort or improvement made, such students should be rewarded as a way of encouraging them to work harder.

Jules Abizere

Jules Abizere, education student at University of Rwanda

Poor results, depending on the underlying factors, are something that can be addressed by all parties, namely; the student, parents and teachers. Many who are known as failures end up doing even better in life with the right help. As a teacher, creating an ideal learning environment for students can impact the way students perform.


Pascal Habimana, English teacher

Some students fail exams purely because they lack the ability and intelligence to pass. Unfortunately, this can negatively impact their self-esteem. As such, counselling and identifying their interests besides academics is important. They can be helped to follow their dreams.