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High School Dropout Rate Worries Zimbabweans

A pupil walks into a dilapidated classroom at the Grace Mugabe Primary School in Hatcliffe. (Photo/Irwin Chifera)
Zimbabwe Youth Minister Francis Nhema says some 300,000 children are being forced to drop out of school every year due to socio-economic challenges.

Speaking on Saturday at the opening of the 22nd session of the Zimbabwe Children’s Parliament and belated commemorations of the Day of the African Child, Nhema said children were dropping out of school not only from failing out, but for socio-economic reasons including failure to pay tuition and school fees.

Nhema said the figures, which over five years can add up to over a million children, are disturbing.

Though boasting of an over 90% literacy rate and increased changes in the sector after the country’s economic crisis, educationists recently requested a meeting with President Robert Mugabe to discuss the state of the education sector, which they say has continued to slide, affecting millions of children.

VOA was unable to reach Minister Nhema, and Education Minister Lazarus Dokora, whose phone went to voicemail.

VOA Reporter Tatenda Gumbo spoke to a parent of three school children, Robson Gambiza, who said his children, two in secondary and one in primary school, are close to facing the harsh realities of the failing economy.

"As a parent and unemployed there is no-way because now the elders who should be working have no employment whatsoever. You cannot get help from anywhere,” he said.

Gambiza said though this year he was able to adequately feed this family, and even harvest enough to sell this year, he was still struggling to raise money to pay fees for his children.

“You get so many problems, even the exercise books that cost us maybe a rand or so, you can hardly get that that dollar,” said Gambiza
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Progressive Teachers Union Zimbabwe president, Takavafira Zhou, said the figures reflect the continued decline of the education sector.

Zhou, who says he assisted the Education Ministry during David Coltart’s tenure to research the issue of dropouts, said the figures are a clear reflection of problems in the education sector.

“The research confirmed that there is a high drop out rate particularily for Grade 1 to 7 and then from Grade 7 to Form 2,” said Zhou.

Zhou added the issue of poverty was the main factor of children failing to complete school, and called for, as other educationists, pressure on the government to correctly deal with the education sector in Zimbabwe.
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