Letter to the President: Plight of the girl child in Matabeleland

Girls are vulnerable to abuse as they travel long distances to the nearest high school, and as a result there are high cases of rape and teenage pregnancies.

Dear Mr President,

I hope this letter finds you in good health. Your Excellency, I write to you with a heavy heart concerning the plight of the girl-child in rural Matabeleland.

I am writing to you to bring urgent attention to the critical issues facing the communities of Nkayi, Tsholotsho, Binga, and other rural areas within the Matabeleland North and South regions.

Despite your government's stated commitment to achieving inclusivity and empowerment for women and the girl-child, particularly through education, several structural factors are hindering the realisation of these noble goals.

One of the most pressing concerns is the shortage of schools and educational resources in these regions. Many children, especially girls, are unable to access quality education due to the lack of adequate infrastructure.

Many are forced to travel long distances to reach the nearest school, often encountering harsh terrain and bad weather. A young mother must accompany their four-year-old ECD-A child to a school that can be between two and five kilometres from their homestead.

They accompany the learner in the morning and make the same journey five hours later to collect the child.

At times the poor woman has to do this with a baby strapped to her back. The learner gets to school exhausted, and concentration becomes impossible as they spend learning time thinking about the journey back home. This leads to high absenteeism as children are exhausted to go to school daily at times on empty tummies.

Furthermore, the low teacher-pupil ratio exacerbates this problem, leading to overcrowded classrooms and diminished learning outcomes. Without sufficient schools and qualified educators, the potential of these bright young minds remains untapped, perpetuating cycles of poverty and inequality.

To address these pressing concerns, Your Excellency, it is necessary to adopt a multi-faceted approach. First and foremost, there is a need for significant investment in infrastructure. This includes the construction of new schools and the improvement of existing facilities to ensure that more children have access to education within a conducive learning environment.

Alongside this, there is an urgent need to increase the number of qualified teachers to improve the teacher-pupil ratio. This could be achieved by offering competitive remuneration packages to attract more individuals to the profession, and implementing comprehensive training programmes to enhance their skills and competencies.

The role of technology cannot be overlooked either. The introduction of digital learning platforms can supplement traditional classroom teaching, especially in areas where resources are scarce.

This would not only broaden the reach of education but also provide a diverse range of learning materials that can cater to different learning styles.

In addition to inadequate educational facilities, there is a severe lack of essential resources, such as computers and learning materials. In today's digital age, access to technology is essential for students to develop the skills necessary to thrive in the modern world.

By neglecting to provide these resources, we are depriving our youth, particularly girls, of the tools they need to succeed academically and professionally.

Therefore, it is imperative that we bridge this digital divide. We must strive to equip our rural schools with the necessary technological resources, such as computers and digital learning materials.

This will not only enhance the learning experience but also prepare our students for the digital future. Furthermore, we must ensure that these resources are accessible to all students, regardless of gender or socio-economic status. This includes providing training and support to help them effectively utilise these tools.

While there have been commendable efforts by the government to introduce digital learning in schools, these initiatives must be expanded and accelerated to meet the needs of all students. It is imperative that we bridge the digital divide and provide our rural learners with the same opportunities as their urban counterparts.

Your Excellency, community information centres, if rolled out to marginalised areas, can play a pivotal role in ensuring children living in rural communities have access to the internet and digital technologies.

By doing so, we can empower our youth, particularly our girls, to excel academically and professionally, thereby driving the nation’s progress forward. It is a plea to your administration, Mr President, to prioritise this issue and invest in our nation’s digital future.

Furthermore, the pervasive issue of gender-based violence and the exploitation of the girl child continues to plague our communities. Older girls are vulnerable to abuse as they travel long distances to the nearest high school.

As a result, there are high cases of rape and teenage pregnancies as girls are abused. This situation is unacceptable and requires immediate attention. The failure to act means girls’ fundamental rights continue to be undermined with the result that they are unlikely to pursue educational opportunities and achieve their full potential.

We must establish robust protection mechanisms to safeguard our girls from these heinous acts. This includes enforcing stringent laws against gender-based violence and exploitation and ensuring that perpetrators are brought to justice.

Additionally, we must invest in awareness programmes that educate our communities about the rights of the girl child and the detrimental effects of these abuses.

Furthermore, we must provide support services for victims, including counselling and rehabilitation programmes, to help them recover and reintegrate into society.

By doing so, Your Excellency, we can create a safe and supportive environment that enables our girls to pursue their education and realise their full potential.

This is a call to your administration, Mr. President, to take decisive action against gender-based violence and exploitation, and to uphold the rights of every girl in our nation.

Lastly, widespread rural poverty exacerbates these challenges, further marginalising women and girls and perpetuating the cycle of inequality. The harsh reality is that many families in these communities grapple daily with the biting claws of poverty. This severely limits their ability to provide their children with the necessary support for their studies, a support that goes beyond mere encouragement and delves into tangible resources.

The lack of education among the populace perpetuates the region’s economic stagnation. Without a well-educated workforce, opportunities for economic growth are severely limited. The community remains trapped in a cycle of poverty and illiteracy, a cycle that is increasingly difficult to break as time goes on.

As such, it is essential that we implement economic empowerment initiatives that are specifically designed to uplift these marginalised communities. This could include microfinance programmes that provide small loans to women to start their own businesses, agricultural support programmes that equip farmers with modern farming techniques and resources, and vocational training programmes that equip individuals with the skills needed for gainful employment.

By providing these communities with the means to generate a sustainable income, we can help them break free from the cycle of poverty. Furthermore, by empowering women and girls economically, we can help them gain independence and control over their lives, thereby challenging traditional gender norms and promoting equality.

Community development programmes could focus on improving the overall socio-economic conditions of the communities, thereby indirectly supporting education. This could include initiatives aimed at job creation, skill development, and income generation.

Collaborating with private entities could bring additional resources and innovative solutions to address the educational divide. This could include corporate social responsibility initiatives by businesses operating in or near these communities.

Mr President, it is imperative that we take decisive action to address these structural factors and fulfill our government's commitment to inclusivity and empowerment. I urge you to allocate sufficient resources to improve educational infrastructure, enhance teacher training programmes, and ensure the provision of essential learning resources, including computers and textbooks.

Additionally, comprehensive measures must be implemented to combat gender-based violence and protect the rights of women and girls.

Investing in education and gender equality is not just a moral imperative; it is also crucial for the long-term prosperity and stability of our nation. By empowering women and girls and providing them with equal opportunities, we can unlock their full potential and build a more prosperous and inclusive society for all.

Thank you, Your Excellency, for your attention to this urgent matter. I look forward to seeing meaningful progress on these issues under your leadership.

YourS Sincerely,


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