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Zimbabwe’s Education System In Need Of Urgent Help

UNICEF Urges Action To Tackle Zimbabwe’s Education ‘Crisis’

New York, Oct 16 2008 10:10AM

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for urgent action to address Zimbabwe’s education system – once the best in Africa – which is suffering due to a combination of low salaries, poor attendance by both teachers and students, and transport and food problems.

Routine monitoring visits in recent weeks found that with national exams looming, some 40 per cent of the country’s teachers were attending lessons, a third of pupils were reporting for classes and district education officers were ill equipped to run national exams.

“The current education crisis has crippled schools across the country leaving most school operating way below capacity and the sector in an apparent state of emergency,” the agency said in a news release.

UNICEF Representative Roeland Monasch noted that between a two-month teachers strike, limited learning materials, political violence and displacement, Zimbabwe’s children have lost a whole year of schooling.

“The depletion of teachers in schools, transport and food problems faced by the remaining teachers and lack of resources have left the sector tottering on the brink of collapse,” he stated.

The Southern African nation’s education system had once been the best on the continent, but a decrease in public funding, coupled with soaring school fees, lack of teachers and low morale owing to inadequate salaries have created tremendous challenges.

“Education remains the engine to drive Zimbabwe’s long-term prospects. It is critical that the sector is not left to collapse, enduring solutions on salaries, food and working conditions should be reached soon, the monitoring visits should be beefed up, the situation in schools require urgent action,” said Mr. Monasch.

“Zimbabwe’s children are already suffering on multiple fronts, denying them an education to better their prospects is unacceptable,” he added.

UNICEF, which already provides support to the Ministry of Education Sport and Culture, said it is ready to assist the Government in improving the current situation.

Over the last two years, the agency has invested an estimated $12 million in the education sector, including through the construction and furnishing of classrooms, provision of text books to primary schools, teacher training and setting up of sanitation facilities in rural schools. It also pays school fees for 150,000 orphaned and vulnerable children.

ENDS

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