Zimbabwe’s Education Crisis: Half-a-Million Children Out of School

UNICEF Raises Alarm Over Education Access in Zimbabwe

by Adenike Adeodun

Zimbabwe is facing a severe educational crisis, as highlighted by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) this week, which stated that half-a-million local children of school-going age are out of school. This alarming statistic was released as the country marked the International Day of Education, emphasizing the importance of education in fostering peace and development globally.

“Only six out of ten children aged three to five are enrolled in pre-primary education, and an estimated half a million children of primary and lower secondary school age are not attending school,” noted UNICEF country representative Tajudeen Oyewale. This data is a wake-up call, urging all stakeholders to address the barriers preventing children from accessing education.

In Zimbabwe, the Education Act mandates every child’s right to education, yet this goal remains unmet. The reasons for children being out of school vary, including economic hardships, long distances to schools, and cultural practices like child marriages, especially prevalent among certain religious groups.

According to a report by Newsday, the economic downturn in Zimbabwe has rendered education unaffordable for many families, with parents struggling to pay school fees. The scarcity of schools in some regions forces children to undertake long, often unsafe journeys to access education, leading to high dropout rates. Furthermore, cultural practices, particularly in apostolic sects, continue to promote child marriages, depriving young girls of their educational rights.

To combat these issues, the government must adopt a holistic approach, addressing the root causes rather than just the symptoms. The Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) is an initiative aimed at helping disadvantaged families send their children to school. However, funding challenges have hindered its effectiveness.

Moreover, recent amendments to the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act aim to protect girls from child marriages and sexual predators. This legislation is a step in the right direction, but enforcement remains key.

The UNICEF report on Zimbabwe’s educational crisis serves as a stark reminder that inclusive education is not just a necessity but a fundamental human right. It is imperative that the government, in collaboration with development partners, ensure every child has access to education. The future of Zimbabwe depends on the education of its children, making it an urgent priority for national development and prosperity.

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