Children struggle to get birth certificates

Tafadzwa Mungendeza (16) from Mashubi village in Chipinge South constituency enrolled for his primary education at a local school in 2004, despite having no birth certificate. Both his parents are late and he has been living with his aunt.

Registration of children should be a top government priority
Registration of children should be a top government priority

Tafadzwa progressed with his primary education without the vital document – which is not unusual for rural children. But he encountered problems when the time came for him to sit for his Grade 7 examinations, and teachers insisted on him producing a birth certificate.

For the next three years he repeated Grade 7 hoping that, somehow, he would be able to get the document.

“My aunt kept telling me she was raising money to take me to Chisumbanje or Chipinge Town to get a birth certificate. But that has not happened to date. It pained me to see other children rush to school to write their examinations and I would watch them through the window at home,” he said.

Tafadzwa finally dropped out of school and headed to South Africa where he worked as a farm labourer in Musina. He could not get a decent job because of his lack of any form of identification or qualification.

His story is typical of the plight of many rural children in Chipinge and other areas who cannot obtain birth certificates for a number of reasons.

Wedzerai Gwenzi, a community elder in Chipinge said many families were finding it difficult to have their children registered.

“Many families struggle to raise money to take their children to registration centres due to poverty. People from areas such as Mashubi, Mabee, Rukangare, Zamuchiya, Tuzuka and Emerald Hill have to walk more than 50km to the nearest birth and death registration centre,” he said.

Chipinge Ward 24 Councilor, Zekias Sithole, said getting a birth certificate was still a challenge to most communities in Chipinge.

“Poverty has made it inaccessible yet without it, children cannot access basic social services such as school enrolment and examination registration,” Sithole said.

A recent survey by Plan International showed that the main reasons why parents were not registering their children at birth were the cost of registration, long distances to the Registry Office and lack of knowledge about the importance of birth certificates.

It urged the government to come up with mobile registry units to help rural communities. The introduction of sub-offices in the area to enable more registrations has been a welcome move, but a significant number of children remain undocumented.

Regai Tinonetsana, the coordinator of Chipinge Learning, a non-governmental organisation that promotes education among underprivileged children, said: “It is very important for all the children to be registered as this will help the statistics department to update the population census. These statistics are used by government institutions in planning and allocating funds for education, health, water and sanitation and other sectors.”

Child Friendly (Chipinge) President, Tenson Mabharera, a student at the local Takwirira High School, called on government to put in place measures to ensure that every child got a birth certificate.

Prosper Mutseyami, Member of Parliament for Musikavanhu constituency, said birth registration was vital for the area’s development and promised to take the government to task to make sure that facilities were availed to even the most marginalized communities in the area.

“Registration of children should be a top government priority and there is need to ensure that every child even in inaccessible areas has a birth certificate,” he said. According to UNDP, birth registration for children under the age of 5 remains low, with only 37% having birth certificates. Even in urban areas the rate is low at 55%.

Post published in: News

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