By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
06 February 2014
The education of children with disabilities is in jeopardy after government suspended a special scheme that entitles them to free primary school education.
Reports Thursday said the secretary for the Social Welfare ministry, Ngoni Masoka, recently told his primary and secondary education colleagues of the development.
Called the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), the programme assists children from poor backgrounds with school fees. According to the department of social services there are one million children in the programme.
Last month director of social services, Sydney Mhishi, told parliament that his ministry received only $15 million for the special programme even though they had asked for a budget allocation of $73 million.
Mishi also revealed that Zimbabwe had approached the British government for help, a development which the Department for International Development confirmed.
But around the same time former education minister David Coltart raised concern over the lack of transparency and the partisan way in which the BEAM programme is managed.
Head of the Council of Social Workers, Philip Manyanye, said the government should ‘go down to basics’ and ensure that more funding goes towards children. He said if the government has no money it should be ‘honorable enough to revise its politics and approach the many organizations that are willing to help.’
Manyanye said he was ‘not surprised’ by lack of support for BEAM because the government has ‘no relationship with many institutions that could support the scheme.’
Manyanye, a senior social worker himself, said the effect of the suspension of the BEAM scheme stands to cause more social problems such as street children and child labour.
The decision by government to discontinue the BEAM scheme comes at a time when parliament is trying to tackle the broader problems of people living with disabilities. A Thursday NewsDay report said senators last week introduced a motion urging government to institute a national special needs policy and a law to deal with children with special needs.