Educational conditions on farms ‘not ideal’

Munyaradzi Wasosa

THE government has admitted its failure to provide educational assistance to farming communities displaced by its land reform programme.



Helvetica, sans-serif”>Education minister Aeneas Chigwedere made the admission at a function marking the presentation of Unilever/World Vision (Zimbabwe) scholarship bursaries in the capital on Friday.


In an interview with the Independent, Chigwedere conceded that educational conditions on newly resettled farms were not ideal. “We acknowledge that the educational conditions in farming schools are far from ideal,” he said.


He however refuted reports that his ministry was failing to adequately assist the increasing number of orphaned children dropping out of school in farming areas.


“It is not true that my ministry is not doing enough to help orphaned children on farms,” he said. “In fact, we have established satellite schools in all farming areas, and farm children are benefiting.”


In Hwedza, which is Chigwe-dere’s constituency, the satellite schools are tobacco barns on Chad, Chirume and Bolton farms that have been converted into makeshift classrooms.


Chigwedere said this was evidence enough that he was “leading by example” as an MP.


“There are no complaints at all in my constituency,” he said. “The tobacco barns operate like any other normal schools here (Harare).”


Chigwedere said his ministry was working with other government departments to construct normal schools in farming areas.


“My ministry was given $4 billion in this year’s budget, and is working with the DDF and the department of physical planning to build new schools in all farming communities,” he said.


Chigwedere also accepted that government’s Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam) was failing to cope with the number of children in impoverished communities.


“Due to the recent fee hikes, Beam’s support efforts have been stretched to the limit,” he said. “This year’s target is difficult to achieve within the context of the current budget, and a review of Beam funding is long overdue.”


The government, facing mounting pressure of school dropouts in recent years, introduced Beam in 2001. The programme targets disadvantaged school children that cannot afford to pay their fees. At least $3,5 billion was allocated to Beam in the 2004 budget.


There have been reports of Beam funds being mishandled in Manicaland. As a result, potential beneficiaries have dropped out of school.


But Chigwedere denied the reports.


“We are not aware of these reports,” he said. “If there is any area that is complaining, then there is something wrong with the leadership.”


The two-year old Unilever/World Vision Zimbabwe scholarship fund rose this year to $35,7 million from $2,7 million last year. The 10 recipients of the bursaries this year are orphans from Sanzukwi in Matabeleland South and Mukumbura.

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