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Bleak future for rural orphans

The self-help foundation was established five years ago in Rusape after a realisation that thousands of orphans were missing out on education due to lack of money.

 

Under the project, orphans grew crops and reared chickens to raise school fees.

But things have not been rosy for the foundation this farming season as it failed to buy maize seed and the chicken project also collapsed because of lack of funds.

“We are now into selling firewood to raise money for food.

“As for school fees we are at a loss as to what to do next because farming was our only source of income,” Gushure said.

Tears trickled down 15-year-old Charles Abraham’s face as he narrated his predicament. Abraham is one of the orphans being looked after by the foundation.

He said he had lost all hope for a better life because of the challenges the foundation faced.

Scores of orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) in Rusape failed to attend school last year, when food shortages were severe.
And 2011 does not look promising either.

The Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam), a state-run scheme currently financed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), has in the past five years failed to help orphans in the six villages of Chindukuro, Gushure, Hera, Gunda, Mashinga and Zweya.

A steaming pot of despair is now very apparent among the villagers as they do not know what to do next.

 

‘Orphans  not protected by law’

Caleb Mutandwa, the director of Justice for Children Trust Programme said the plight of the orphans was made worse by lack
of specific  provisions in  law to protect vulnerable children.

Mutandwa said the Education Act was flawed because it only dealt with parents who fail to send their children to school.

“The law does not account or recognise the orphans’ plight, meaning that in the event that both parents are dead no one can be held accountable,” he said.

“Laws governing social services in Zimbabwe are weak in that Beam can fail to deliver or could be removed and no one would be forced to assist the orphans.”

Mutandwa said a survey they carried out in 20 districts showed that even children whose parents were still alive failed to raise fees averaging US$14 at primary school level.

“There is need for an Act of Parliament that deals with current challenges concerning social security services and assistance to the poverty-stricken Zimbabweans,” he said

He also encouraged government to introduce social welfare grants for the under-privileged as was the case in South Africa.

 

FACT urges government to act

Some of the organisations that work with disadvantaged children in Rusape include Family Aids Caring Trust (Fact), which assists over
7 500 OVCs.

Portipher Guta, the Fact Rusape executive director said there was need for government to address the problems that continue to affect Beam after NGOs were directed to channel their assistance through the programme.

“The transition from direct donor funding for school fees to central government is plausible,” Guta said.

“There is need for government to re-engage the donor organisations that were active in these areas as the transition was not as smooth as we had expected.

“The bottlenecks here are apparent as indicated by the number of both orphans and children with parents under Beam who were chased away from school for non-payment of fees.”

Despite the improvements in the economy, most families in Zimbabwe’s rural areas remain in dire straits — with few in a position to afford three meals a day and pay school fees for their children.

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