Thousands of children drop out of school

As Zanu (PF) bans NGO assistance

MUTARE Zanu (PFs) decision to ban Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) from offering assistance with fees to orphaned and vulnerable children in rural areas has seen thousands of children dropping out of school.

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. NGOs operating in Manicaland rural areas were paying school fees under the National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, but were accused of using the programme as a campaign tool for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

A source at the Manicaland Province Social Welfare Offices said the ban on NGOs school fees assistance programmes have seen many deserving orphaned and vulnerable children dropping out of school. Zanu (PF) hijacked the programme and the funds are being channelled to the Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam) run by the governments department of social welfare.

We have realized that headmasters at various schools are now being instructed by the local leadership to offer Beam assistance to children with parents or guardians who are Zanu (PF) card carrying members. Under the Programme of Support (POS), NGOs were able to identify beneficiaries both in urban and rural areas. POS is a basket funding mechanism where various international organisations provided over US$80 million to support orphans and vulnerable children in different interventions, a source at the Manicaland provincial social welfare offices said.

Everything was running smoothly under the POS programme. 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, an official in one Manicaland-based NGO said.

The National Association for NGOs also confirmed that there was concern among donors that a lot of children had been left out during the transition. The organization said there was a need for more transparency. The NGOs have now stopped offering assistance to the vulnerable and orphaned children in Manicaland as there is fierce political interference. The few funds that are available benefit only those aligned to Zanu (PF). It is a very sad situation, a source said.

Post published in: Education

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