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Zimbabwe Fails to Pay Fees for 750,000 Desperate Children

Schools opened Tuesday amid revelations that government is unable to pay fees for more than 750,000 school children in need of assistance under the country’s Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) designed for kids from poor families.

Acting principal director in the Ministry of Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare, Sydney Mhishi on Tuesday told parliament’s Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare portfolio committee that the ministry requested $73 million for BEAM this year but was allocated only $15 million.

This amount, Mhishi said, can only assist 83,000 against a targeted 250,000 secondary school children and 750,000 primary school pupils in need of assistance.

He said while government has been paying only for secondary school students and donors taking care of fees for the vulnerable children in primary schools, no donor has come forward to assist this year.

Mhishi said while the new constitution dictates that basic education must be compulsory and free, it is impossible under the 2014 budget to provide free basic education.

He could not say why donors pulled out given that their evaluation of BEAM had concluded that it was extremely necessary and was benefitting the right people.

He was, however, optimistic that donors would come on board and finance primary school children in need of assistance.

Meanwhile, Mhishi also told the committee that government is this year not able to provide assistance to over 75 percent of the more than two million people in need of food aid due to budgetary constraints.

He said his ministry had requested $11.9 million under its food deficit mitigation program but was only allocated $1.6 million, representing only 13.4 percent of the total required budget.

Mhishi said the amount allocated by the Treasury in the 2014 for food relief is not even enough to buy one month’s supply of the required maize.

Meanwhile, the World Food Program Zimbabwe (WFP) country office said in a statement it will do everything possible to meet the needs of the vulnerable people in Zimbabwe but hinted it might not be able to help all of them.

It said despite contributions from donors like the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, it is failing scale up its relief operations due to shortages of funds.

The UN agency requires $60 million to fully implement its relief and recovery operations in the next six months.