Education in crisis – families battle to keep children in class

Lucia Nkomo:  "Already we have sold the refrigerator"

BULAWAYO - Lucia Nkomo is in a panic. The schools her three children attend in Bulawayo are demanding a total of US$1,900 in fees for the first term of the school y

The Nkomos are a solid middle-class family: Lucia is employed as a nurse and her husband is a salaries clerk at a newspaper. They expected to educate their children at private schools, but because of hyperinflation their combined income is just US$25 a month when converted into US dollars, which have almost become the country’s official currency.

"Since schools closed [for the Christmas holidays] I have been saving some money, which I had hoped would cover the school fees. My expectation was that the fees would be far less than US$200 for each child, but what the schools are now demanding is just too much.

"Last year the schools my daughters attend were demanding fees paid in fuel coupons. Each school was demanding between 100 and 200 litres of petrol a term, and this was quite reasonable at the time. But with the current foreign currency craze the schools are demanding huge amounts.

"Already I am spending sleepless nights on the computer sending e-mails to all my relatives in the diaspora [many Zimbabweans have migrated to neighbouring and overseas countries in search of work] asking for donations to enable me to pay the schools fees, otherwise all three of the children will stop going to school.

"In the last week I have been going through my diary and have been randomly sending messages to friends I last spoke to many years ago, asking for donations of varying amounts.

"My husband has been going through the same process, asking for donations from his relatives and friends in the diaspora. We understand that money does not come easily, especially for those in the diaspora, but we have no choice but to beg.

"Already we have sold the refrigerator, but we only managed to raise US$250.
We are still deciding on what else to sell. My husband over the weekends crosses over to Botswana to purchase goods for resale in Zimbabwe, but the profits are not much as we have to pay bribes to the police.

"If it all fails then I will have no choice but to move my children to government schools, even though there are no teachers and study materials at the government schools. I will have no choice but to compromise my children’s education." – IRIN

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