Schools opened for the 2014 school year Tuesday with many ordinary Zimbabweans, who are facing mounting economic hardships, finding it increasingly difficult to pay school fees for their children.
In an effort to address this community problem, a Gweru-based company in collaboration with a local church, has brought relief to some parents and guardians by paying fees for desperate children.
Thirty-six year-old Anna Chikaka Kurwa lives in Mkoba 7 with her husband and three children. Kurwa and her husband are both unemployed but like most ordinary Zimbabweans value the education of their children.
As they earn their livelihoods through odd jobs, Kurwa and her husband have been finding it difficult to pay fees for their two school-going children at secondary and primary education level.
The Kurwa family is among a few households that have been lucky to have their children’s fees paid by a Gweru-based property development company, River Valley Properties, working together with the locally-based Champions Ministries Church.
Kurwa says the payment of fees for her son Brighton, who has started Grade Five at Chikumbiro Primary in Mkoba 6, has made her life a little easier.
“We have three children. The eldest is in Form Three, the second in Grade 5, and the youngest is still to go to school. I am grateful that River Valley Properties and Champions Ministries have paid fees for our younger child because we were now finding it difficult to pay fees for our two children. My husband and I are not gainfully employed so we are very happy that we have received this assistance,” he says.
River Valley Properties and Champions Ministry Church have paid fees for 20 pupils in some primary schools in Gweru including Chikumbiro, Muwunga, Sandara, St. Michaels and Mambo Secondary schools.
Juliet Chemhere, a 55 year-old unemployed widow, looks after her grandchildren - Kimberley and Onias.
Chemhere says she is overjoyed that both Kimberley, who is in Grade 7 and Onias in Grade 5, are among those who have had their fees paid for by these well-wishers.
“For the past few years, things have been very difficult for me and my family. I heard that Champions Ministries were seeking to assist widows who are looking after orphans and other disadvantaged people like me and I approached them as I am a member of the church. I am very happy they are paying fees for my two grandchildren. Things were tough for me and I owed the school a lot in unpaid fees,” she says.
River Valley Properties and Champions Ministries Church have over the past few years paid fees for several students. At least some of them are now enrolled at various universities.
Among the beneficiaries are Juliet Magwidi who is in Form Four and Takesure Matemera who has started his Form Five at Mambo Secondary School, as well as Takudzwa Tafirei, a Politics and Public Management undergraduate at Midlands State University.
Takesure, who was raised by a single mother, says he hopes to do well in his studies so that he can succeed in life and be able to help others as well.
Chief executive officer, Smelly Dube of River Valley Properties, says it is important for companies to help the less privileged in local areas.
Forty-three year-old Nigel Mangoni has two children who are in primary school. Mangoni was retrenched a couple of years ago but never got a severance package.
He remains unemployed and says he is finding it difficult to make ends meet, adding that he too would be happy to receive some kind of help towards the education of his children.
Mangoni says he has tried to get assistance through the government-backed Basic Education Assistance Module or BEAM, but failed.
Zimbabweans always value the education of their children but continued economic hardships may mean that more and more will need to rely on begging for sending their children to school.