Govt bungles BEAM

The government has been blamed for throwing the future of hundreds of thousands of children into jeopardy because it has failed to meet its obligations under the Basic Education Assistance Module.

A highly placed source said the state only forwarded a request for BEAM funding to the UK’s Department for International Development, DFID, on Monday last week, a day before schools opened. DFID confirmed receipt of the request and said it would consider the request through normal procedures. This flies in the face of recent remarks by the Director of Social Services in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Services, Sydney Mhishi, who claimed donors had pulled out.

Giving evidence to the parliamentary portfolio committee on labour and social welfare, Mhishi said nearly one million pupils might fail to attend school because of inadequate funding, but did not indicate that his ministry had failed to apply for support on time. He said government had allocated only $15 million to BEAM to cater for 83,000 secondary students at a cost of $180 per child, against a needy 750,000 primary and 250,000 primary school pupils.

This would leave 167,000 secondary school and all the 750,000 primary school children out in the cold. Mhishi claimed the DFID funding was ended in 2013 while UNICEF, another core funder in the past, had terminated its support in 2012.

“We still think they (DFID) might come again. They have not responded and schools open today. If they don’t come, it means government will have to look for the money,” Mhishi said on January 14, a day after making the application to DFID.

The UK, one of Zimbabwe’s largest donors, provided additional funding to BEAM for primary education in 2012 and 2013 – keeping some 330,000 orphans and vulnerable children in primary school each year.

Education stakeholders and parents described the failure by government to make education accessible to the nation’s children as highly irresponsible and unfortunate. Former minister for labour and Social Welfare Paurina Mupariwa said government should seek resources from partners such as the UNDP, DFID and UNICEF among others as failure was not an option.

Some one million orphans and other disadvantaged children depend on BEAM for their educational requirements and face expulsion from school if no solution is found in the near future. Schools opened for the new term last week. In its 2014 national budget, government allocated $15 million to BEAM against the required $73 million.

“There is no way a responsible government would wake up one morning to announce like Zimbabwe did that we have inadequate resources to fund basic requirements,” said Mupariwa in a telephone interview. She said poverty had reached alarming levels and there was need for government to prioritise welfare of the poor, and described BEAM as a pivotal social protection programme that should not be compromised.

During her term of office Mupariwa set up a BEAM management committee to avoid undeserving people from benefitting and to evaluate the programmes performance regularly. The secretary general for the Progressive Teachers Union Zimbabwe, Raymond Majongwe, said the state should not abandon its responsibilities, citing lack of resources as an excuse.

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