By Shingirai Vambe
Collapsing of pupils during school lessons mainly in Matebeleland South has raised serious cause for concern as hunger levels continue to rise due to poverty in Zimbabwe.
Asking the Deputy Minister of Education Edgar Moyo during a parliamentary session last week on Thursday 06 October, Senator Douglas Mwonzora said, “This country has got a problem of hunger in areas such as Matebeleland North and South to the extent that some children are failing to go to school due to hunger. There are school children who end up fainting while at school because of hunger. Is the Government aware of this problem which is being faced by schools and if so, what is the Government doing to alleviate this problem?”
The hunger situation is being exacerbated by the current drought spell ravaging greater parts of Zimbabwe following a poor rainy season last year. Furthermore, the majority of households, this year failed to pay for their children’s school fees due to poor remuneration.
Minister Moyo said, “It is true that there is general hunger in the areas that the Hon. Senator has cited and that some children are going to school hungry. In the current budget that is running, we made some procurement because the School Feeding Programme was part of the provisions. Some procurements were made; however, the supplies have been erratic.”
While the vast majority of schools still require food assistance due to delays arising from government bureaucracies, there are however a few schools with ongoing feeding schemes.
“One of the key pillars in our Ministry of Education Budget Strategy document is the issue of school feeding which we think is central in ensuring that children consistently come to school and concentrate in their learning programmes. Going forward, we anticipate the timeous release of the budget funds so that we are able to procure food well in time and avert hunger”, Moyo added.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) accused government of neglecting the masses in times of dire need such as the current rise is hunger cases especially among rural households due to the ongoing drought season.
Speaking to Post On Sunday ARTUZ President Obert Masaraure said, “Zimbabwe needs to quickly strengthen the school feeding program which was being done in schools. Ironically the rapid increase in poverty to alarming levels is coinciding with the arrogant Private Voluntary Organization (PVO) Bill statement by Zanu Pf spokesperson lobbying for the chasing away of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) which are currently coming in with substantial food aid in most cases bigger than government itself.”
“We urge the NGO community to revive such schemes which assist with food aid, especially in such areas where agricultural activities are low due to bad climate, while government should also invest in social services,” added Masaraure.
Makoni Central MP, David Tekeshe and the Primary and Secondary Committee Chairperson, Torerai Moyo both questioned the Ministry of Education’s reluctance to consider the economic situation by continuously sending away pupils for non-payment or half payment of fees. It seems, government has failed to distinguish the roles played by school authorities in excluding children from lessons, while being paid their full salary.
One Headmaster spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity saying, “The Zimbabwean Government has given out schools to headmasters and parents through the School Development Committees to build and develop schools.
Speaking to The Post On Sunday Tekeshe said, “It is surprising that to date, no one school authority, Provincial or District education offices have upheld the high court ruling that was handed down 12 years ago which forbade the sending away of students for nonpayment of school fees.”
No doubt the plight of students and guardians alike is a double edged sword where pupils tend to lose time out of school for non-payment of fees while even those who would have struggled to put together school fees still suffer as hunger takes the order of the day due to drought.
Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson, Taungana Ndoro could not give statistics, siting that it’s still early to ascertain those who have dropped out in the year 2022.