Date Published: 10 February 2009

Zimbabwe education crisis worsens as schools remain closed

As the world focuses on the inauguration of Zimbabwe's Prime Minister and the commencement of a government of national unity, UNICEF today released staggering data revealing that 94% of schools in rural Zimbabwe remain closed and called for a prioritisation of the education sector by the new government.

?The education situation is a national disaster. It is imperative that the unity government focuses on this. Children in rural areas already live on the margins, many are orphaned, a huge number depend on food aid, they struggle on numerous fronts.”said UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe, Roeland Monasch. ?Now these children are being denied the only basic right that can better their prospects. It is unacceptable.?

Abandoned schools

The figures emerging from routine assessment visits across Zimbabwe revealed that 66 of 70 schools were abandoned. In the only fully operational school found during visits, a third of pupils were reporting for classes. Vandalisation of school property in abandoned schools was also prevalent.

The education crisis which started last year saw a marked depletion of teachers in schools, plummeting school attendance rate from over 80% to 20% and postponement of national schools exams. This year schools were opened two weeks late, exam results have not been released and learning only resumed in some urban areas for the few who could afford to subsidise teachers' salaries and pay exorbitant US dollar fees.

?It is the responsibility of government to ensure that every child receives an education. The burden of salaries, learning material and school maintenance should not fall on parents. This is just not sustainable, most parents cannot carry this burden and many children will fall between the cracks,” added Mr. Monasch, ?evidently, rural schools bear testimony to this?.

Now on the brink of collapse, Zimbabwe's education system was once the best in Africa. However, past successes have been reversed by a cocktail of problems hinged on the financing of the sector, which have seen a marked decline in the wage bill of teachers and school improvement grants.

Teachers' vital role

While UNICEF already provides support to the Ministry of Education Sport and Culture - an investment of US$17 million over the last two years - for classroom construction, school fees assistance to over 100 000 children, textbooks, learning materials, boreholes, toilets in rural schools, the children's agency recognises teachers remain vital for learning and support to bring back the teachers in the classroom is requisite.

?Strong, swift and decisive national leadership is critical at this juncture but so is international support to the sector. This is an opportunity for all stakeholders to show their commitment to Zimbabwe and its children,” said Mr Monasch.


Source: UNICEF Main Website.
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