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Teachers’ Union Says Zimbabwe to Record More School Dropouts as Poverty Grips Nation

FILE: Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary general Raymond Majongwe addressing members of his union. (Photo: PTUZ)
FILE: Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary general Raymond Majongwe addressing members of his union. (Photo: PTUZ)

The Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) says crippling poverty is forcing thousands of children to drop out of school.

In a statement, PTUZ said the recent hike in examination fees is expected to worsen the situation as the majority of Zimbabweans are now living from hand to mouth.

PTUZ said, “The figures indicate that the government and the candidates will share the costs, in theory, with the government carrying 55% of the burden. Grade 7 candidates, as per the figures circulating, will pay $4,388 while government pays $5,362 for a total of $9,700. Ordinary and Advanced Level candidates will pay $1,620 and $3,240 respectively while government takes care of the remaining 55%.

“While in theory the figures may look miniscule, given the loss in the value of the Zim dollar, it should not make us lose sight of the egregious fact that these figures are still not affordable to the generality of the candidates and their funders. You may be aware of the figures we produced last week, which indicate the unfortunate and shocking statistic that the ZIMSEC O Level candidature has been falling by steep levels since 2017, from a high of 332,473 in November 2017, to a low of 163,179 in 2021, a mind-blowing 51%.”

PTUZ said more learners are dropping from school as a result of “endemic poverty pervading through the society.”

It added that the situation is made worse by the “fact that drought and famine are ravaging the country today. That, coupled with the fact that parents have had to pay huge tuition fees and other costs means that most parents may not be able to register for the November examinations.

“Most parents and guardians are also still battling from the economic effects of Covid 19. We are therefore likely to witness another huge drop in registration. It is the most perfect example of bottlenecking witnessed in the past two decades. We cannot excuse a system that seeks to increase the pass rate by reducing the number of candidates as we are seeing now.”

PTUZ said parents of school-going children are unable to raise money quickly enough like in the past when they were using lending facilities provided by banks and other moneylenders.

“Unfortunately, at a crucial juncture we have had the government making the senseless announcement whose effect is to prevent people from borrowing money for registering their children, among other problems. We are also aware that government has not been paying its component of the examination fees, or paying so late that the money would no longer make sense.

“The result is that examiners are paid late. We request that government not only increases its share of the examination fees to 75%, but that the money be paid timeously in order to enable ZIMSEC to meet its obligations. The PTUZ cannot accept a situation where the government does not take the issue of examinations seriously as is the case right now. We call upon the government to take our input with the seriousness it deserves.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently announced new finance measures to tighten money supply and demand by stopping banks from lending people and companies funds for personal and other purposes.

The Ministry of Education has not yet reacted to the PTUZ’s concerns as state officials have been unreachable for comment.