By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
24 June 2014
Around 300,000 children are dropping out of school each year, the ZANU PF Minister for Youth Francis Nhema revealed on Saturday.
Addressing delegates and children at an event to mark the Day of the African Child, the Minister said the figures were “ghastly”.
Nhema said while some children were dropping out after failing their O Levels, many are being forced to leave school due to economic hardships.
“The reality we face at the end of each academic year is that not all of our children and young people will pass their Ordinary Level examination.
“The total of those failing examinations, added to those dropping out due to these (socio-economic) circumstances, is in the range of between 250,000 to 300,000.
“This number, over a five year period, translates to between a million to a million-and-a-half. It is too ghastly to contemplate,” Nhema said on Saturday.
Progressive Teachers’ Union President Dr Takavafira Zhou said the statistics cited by Nhema were not new, adding that they simply reflect the poverty and misery currently afflicting millions of Zimbabweans.
“A research survey we conducted during the time of ex-Education Minister David Coltart revealed that at least 197,000 primary school pupils drop out every year,” Zhou said.
Zhou said the government was failing in its duty by not resolving the problems facing education and other sectors when all evidence points to a mounting crisis.
“The issue of generations of uneducated youths is also a social, economic and political problem which requires a multi-pronged approach from the State, including adequate funding.”
Zhou said suggestions that Zimbabwe has a 92% literacy rate, one of the highest in the continent, are misleading and based on figures gleaned from the 1980s-1990s.
“The 92% literacy rate which we keep basking in is just the ability to read and write and not the functional literacy we should be aiming for.
“The current situation, stretching from 1999, is that students have not learnt much because the government is not funding the education sector and failing to provide universal access to primary education, leading to drop-outs.”
The deteriorating conditions in Zimbabwe’s schools, including poor wages for teachers, have forced many qualified staff out of the country adding to the challenges facing the sector.
While ex-Education Minister Coltart had introduced a raft of programmes and incentives aimed at reviving the sector and retaining staff, his successor has reversed most of these, leading to a loss of morale among the teachers.
Coltart is widely credited with stabilising the education sector through sound policies and robust efforts at mobilising funds and material resources from donors.
Zhou accused current Education Minister Lazarus Dokora of being out of touch and failing to consult stakeholders when coming up with education policies.
“He is the person who has suggested that pupils must write exams at Grade 2, and at Grade 4. He has banned mid-week sports and has contemplated not paying teachers during holiday periods.
“Instead of moving full speed in the wrong direction, Dokora should pause, listen and consult widely because if teachers do not buy into his policies, even if he deploys aeroplanes to monitor them, none of his ill-advised policies will be implemented,” Zhou said.