Activists and Civil Society organizations among them Tag a Life International (TaLI), Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of the Child (ZNCWC), Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ), Justice for Children (JCT), Mambure Trust, Education Coalition of Zimbabwe (ECOZI) amongst the many child sector organizations in Zimbabwe have commended the government of Zimbabwe for releasing the policy that allows children who are currently out of school access to education.
This policy comes after a number of years by the campaigners led by TaLI urging the government to release the Every Child in School (ECIS) policy to allow vulnerable children into public schools.
Launched in 2017, the campaign was a direct response to the change in the Zimbabwe dispensation with the campaigners putting the new government to the test asking the government to prioritize the children to ensure nooone is left behind in the 2030 middle income economy mantra by the new president.
“Pushing for this policy was both an act of desperation for the Zimbabweans children who 30% currently are left out and shut out of schools, as well as an act to put the new rhetoric in the new government to the test” said the leader of the campaign, Nyaradzo Mashayamombe, the Founding Executive Director of the lead organisation TaLI, a girls and young women’s group in Zimbabwe.
According to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Strategic Plan 2016-2020, atleast 27% of school going Zimbabwean children are out of school largely to due to the fact that they cannot afford to pay the heavy demands at enrollment.
This policy is therefore expected to be the relief in leaving nooone behind and achieving sustainable development goal 4 which speaks to quality education for all.
The campaigners noted with discouragemebt however that schools are continuing with business as usual despite this policy’s existence. Children are still being demanded money at enrollment and demands such as part or full purchase of school uniforms or accessories from the schools before a child is enrolled are still prevalent.
Communities and parents, as well as members of the civil society are not aware of this policy, and the campaigners are now urging the government to ensure that the policy is publicized so that citizens; children, parents, guardian, NGOs, government departments and stakeholders who work with kids are empowered to hold school authorities to account in ensuring such children are given places.
“The ministry has done well in releasing this policy, the Secretary’s circular 3 of 2019. What is needed urgently are mechanisms by the ministry to ensure all public schools atleast accept a number of children who have not paid and should be asked to periodically report on this. The ministry must set itself real targets to eliminate the 27% out of school children or else this can become another document to gather dust in school desks due to lack of implementation.
“The national budget must practically speak into the government commitment to ensure every child has access to education according to its constitutional mandate, and by that we do not mean teacher and personnel expenditure, we mean funds to subsidize access to education, learning materials, building of schools to name just a few”, said Mashayamombe.
Taylor Nyanhete, whose organisation ZNCWC has been part of the campaign said that “we are happy to note the release of the policy that we have worked so hard for, and I would like to commend TaLI for leading and for being persistent.
“We are particularly happy to see the circular addressing almost everything that every child has access to education especially the disabled children, as this has been our fight for a long time, what remains is real implementation of this policy to benefit the children. We also implore MPs to carry out audits in their constituency to establish if all children are not in school urgently”.