Grim life for resettled kids

Perched on bricks under umbrella-shaped savanna trees children at Estridge satellite primary school 15 km from Chinhoyi children try to learn.

Children uprooted from commercial farming should be  condemned to  battle for education.
Children uprooted from commercial farming should be condemned to battle for education.

When it rains some do not turn up. For most the school is far away from their resettled homes.

Winter normally sees a massive drop in attendances as children, who have only a few ragged clothes, shy away from the biting cold.

Estridge is one of 701 schools that sprouted following President Robert Mugabe’s land “reform” programme begun at the turn of the century.

A thematic committee of Parliamentarians on Millennium Development Goals, which has been studying satellite schools since 2010, said that for the past 10 years, children uprooted from commercial farming communities had “been condemned to such a harsh learning environment and until something miraculous or dramatic happens, a dark cloud is cast over their future.”

Indeed it’s a bleak future that threatens the country’s chances of meeting the MDGs according to Education Minister David Coltart.

“In rural and urban areas the dropout ratio is still very high. Last year we estimated that at least 300 000 children not covered by BEAM (Basic Education Assistance Module) could not attend school because they had no school fees,” said Coltart.

The situation is worse at satellite schools which are not legally recognized.

“The problem is particularly acute in satellite schools because the government did not plan for these schools. They were established in response to the land reform programme,” said Coltart.

“There are no buildings at the schools, there are no teachers in fact there is no infrastructure at all. At present government simply does not have the resources so it will be difficult to meet the MDGs,” he said.

Gift Muti the Secretary General of the General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe said children in such communities have been condemned to a life of farm labouring “There are no schools at the farms and in the few instances where they are found the situation is so deplorable that most children drop out and join their parents as labourers. Most of the so-called new farmers do not prioritize education but regard children as a source of cheap labour,” said Muti.

The vicious cycle of poverty continues as most of the kids do not have national registration documents as their parents are often of foreign descent. They cannot progress beyond primary school as there are no secondary schools and also most of them do not have birth certificates required to register for examinations,” said Muti.

The committee urged the government to amend the Citizenship Act so as “to address the challenges being faced by people whose ancestors classified as aliens.”

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