Child drop-out rate increases

MUTARE Hundreds of orphaned and vulnerable children in Manicaland have dropped out of school following President Robert Mugabes decision to bar non-governmental organisations from offering direct assistance with fees.

NGOs were disbursing fees under the National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children but following the policy shift, the funds are now being channelled to the Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam) run by the governments department of social welfare.

According to sources within Manicaland Social Welfare office, Beam has been benefiting children belonging to known Zanu (PF) members, while those belonging to MDC-T are sidelined.

In an interview with The Zimbabwean this week a programmes director with a local NGO said: We had mechanisms to identify needy children and funds were flowing smoothly. However, following the policy shift on Beam we have experienced problems and most of the children who were benefiting have not been taken on board, he said.

There are new people from the government involved and we do not know whats happening despite having handed over the lists of children who were being supported to the Ministry of Social Welfare. I can confirmed that there was concern among

donors that a lot of children had been left out during the transition, said another official from an NGO who preferred to be synonymous. He said there was also a need for more transparency in the selection of beneficiaries as most deserving cases were left out.

The director of social services in the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Sydney Mhishi said: The possibility that thousands of children were left out of BEAM cannot be ruled out. The donor community has pledged US$15 million for assistance at primary school level for 2010 to assist 625 000 beneficiaries and the government budgeted US$15 225 000 for secondary to assist 140 200 beneficiaries, Mhishi said adding that projections are that up to one million children both primary and secondary may require assistance.

According to recent studies, nearly a quarter of all children in Zimbabwe are orphans and this has been blamed on the effects of the HIV/Aids virus.

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