'Education' a luxury
Contrary to the United Nations' Millennium Goals that include 'Education for all by 2015', over 80% of children in rural Zimbabwe are not attending school because their parents cannot afford to pay school fees. The introduction of the US Dollar as one of the official trading currencies is yet to bring price stability in the country but until then, most rural folks will practically fail to educate their own children.
Low turnout at Chikwidibire Secondary School
Some parents in rural Mashonaland East province have been asked to pay between US$20 and US$50 in school fees for their children, money which they cannot practically earn in six months on average. As a result, over 90% of children in this poor farming region are at home and are likely to stay away from school for the whole year.
This has been the case since late last year when teachers went on indefinite strike siting low wages as their main grievance among many. Some School Development Committees attempted to pay teachers incentives ranging from US20.00 to US50.00 but nothing materialised leaving a few of the fortunate school children without teachers.
Parents in the rural communities simply cannot afford such high fees as they are already struggling with day to day living needs.
Mission schools (religious) have a very good education reputation in Zimbabwe dating back to well before 1980 (year of political independence) and have produced very successful high profile members of the Zimbabwean society. Most of them are boarding schools and are situated in remote rural areas mainly to cater for the poor farming locals.
2008 was a very difficult year for almost all mission schools and 2009 has started no better. ST Francis of Assisi in Chivhu has asked for US$280 and students should bring their own food including:
- 12.5kg mealie -meal
- 4kg sugar
- 2kg beans
- 2kg rice
- 2kg salt
- 2 litres cooking oil
The above list costs about US$30 which again, is very hard to come by. A very low turnout of 60 students out of a possible 700 has been the result and the deputy head has been left very worried.
"I fear for the exam class students who have already missed a lot of tutorials and are set to continue doing so if this situation is not resolved. Uniforms are even more expensive than the fees so we will not stress parents any further"Mr Mangara (Deputy Head - St Francis of Assisi School)
With an inflation rate in millions, urban parents are facing a very high cost of living and unemployment has been on the up. Fees have been in the region of about US$200 a term for ordinary day schools and most parents who earn the much gazetted US$100 cannot afford to send their children to school. Only a few fortunate students from affluent families can afford private tutorials.
Well it's very clear that education in Zimbabwe in currently 'Not For All' and this is a generational problem that will have negative effects on not only the local communities, but the economy and well being of the country as a whole.
Project Manager - Zimbabwe