June 18, 2005

Children drop out of schools after crackdown

According to a news report, thousands of children of informal traders and city squatter families in Zimbabwe have dropped out of school in the last four weeks alone after their homes had been destroyed. Officials at the Ministry of Education head office in Harare said directors of education in the country’s 10 provinces were asked to compile figures of children under 13 years no longer coming to school because their families were evicted in the government’s urban clean-up operation. "The average figure of pupils no longer attending school because their family has been evicted is 100 per school and these are just primary school kids. But in secondary schools, it appears the effect of the evictions has not been that devastating," said one senior official. The official said school authorities have not been able to establish the whereabouts of the children many of whom are now just roaming around urban areas with their families and sleeping in the open after the shanty homes were brunt down by the police. "It is not known whether these children will come back to school once things stabilise or they are out for good. What is clear is that they have been forced out of school because of the prevailing circumstances," said the official.
Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere has acknowledged that school children who lived in squatter homes had been forced to drop out of school. But he said his ministry was only going to act on the matter after fully assessing the problem. He stressed that “we are still assessing the situation. Any reactive measures will be taken thereafter." He did not say when exactly he plans to take the ‘reactive measures’.
In the meantime, the Herald has also reported that the Zimbabwe government has hiked fees for state primary and secondary schools. Fees per term for primary schools in low-income town and city suburbs have gone up 1.000 times to Z$100.000, the paper said. Foreign pupils attending those schools must pay US$300, it added. Fees for secondary schools have also gone up 1.000 times. The hikes also apply to schools in more affluent areas, but pupils attending primary schools in rural areas will not have to pay. (Zim Online, South Africa / News 24, South Africa)

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