Pupils drop out of school as hunger stalks rural areas

HUNDREDS of children could have dropped out of school in the past few weeks, as severe hunger hits Zimbabwe’s drought-stricken rural areas.

BY PHYLLIS MBANJE/CORRESPONDENTS

A snap survey by The Standard in the past week revealed that several children had dropped out of school, and more could join them as shortage of food at a household level becomes critical.

It emerged that older children were leaving school for gold panning, vending or taking up menial jobs to enable them to provide for their younger siblings.

One such child is Tafadzwa Mutyambizi (15), of Mbanga Village in Uzumba, who said hunger in the family worsened following the death of his father last year.

“I decided to quit school because my family needed me. Besides, I was being chased away from school every day for not paying fees,” he said. “I am the man now and I have to look after my mother and my four siblings who are still very young.”

There was no food in the house except for a small bag of maize meal, which they had bought for US$6 from another villager.

“In the morning, we have porridge with no sugar. It used to taste funny but now we don’t really mind,” said Mutyambizi. “Lunch is a luxury, but on good days we have beans donated by neighbours or well-wishers. Supper is boiled vegetables with sadza.”

This family is one of the many households that have been adversely affected by drought in Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe (UMP).

Most men have left their families to pan for gold along Pfungwe River.

Tinei Makokoro, a mother of four, also said the drought had reduced them to beggars.

“We implore the government to help us with food packs at moments like these.”

UMP chief executive officer, Eggrey Kanganga confirmed that there was hunger in the district but referred questions to district administrator, Michael Kadaira.

However, a council official who requested anonymity said the situation was most dire in the Pfungwe area.

“In areas like Magudu and Mungori, people go for days without eating anything,” he said. “Young boys are now quitting school and going into illegal mines.”

Education officials who spoke to The Standard last week said cases of children dropping out of school were most prevalent in dry parts of Manicaland, Matabeleland, Masvingo and parts of Midlands provinces.

A headmaster in Chimanimani said poor pupil attendance had become the norm at some schools in the district because of hunger.

“Some faint in class and we suspect it is because of hunger,” he said. “Some pupils come to school once or twice a week, on the days they would have eaten something.”

Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) president, Richard Gundane confirmed that children were dropping out of school because of hunger.

“There is evidence that pupils drop out of school and among many other reasons the issue of hunger is very pertinent,” he said. “In most rural areas a child might decide not to go to school because they are hungry or their parents drag them off to the field in a bid to secure food.”

Gundane urged non-governmental organisations such as Unicef to chip in.

Hunger also stalks villagers in Lupane and Mangwe district, where the food situation was also dire as they did not harvest anything due to drought.

“We did not harvest anything because of the drought and we are in urgent need of food aid,” said Linnet Nyathi (63) from Lupane district located in the western side of Bulawayo. “We just eat traditional porridge in the morning and sadza in the evening and wild fruits in the afternoon.”

During the launch of the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy early this year, President Robert Mugabe expressed concern at figures that showed that one in every three children is chronically malnourished in the country.

Mugabe said 25% of all deaths of children under the age of five were due to nutritional deficiencies.

7 Responses to Pupils drop out of school as hunger stalks rural areas

  1. Gutter Poet September 22, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    If this does not make you weep what will? And why is the government throwing our children to the wolf known as SDA whose brief appears to be to send as many children into the street as is possible. I have faith Mr. Dokora a proven friend of children will arrest this rot. He made it clear once that no child should be sent from school but school authorities should engage the parents as these are the people they have contracts with..did anybody listen? And why is so special that schools are allowed to raise prices of services by as much as 100% when the inflation rate is 5%..and why are these being approved? Might it have something to do with officers in the ministry who should know better gettting a backhander also known as a bribe? And why is it the worst culprits are government schools? I say roll these usurous rates back to pre 2012 levels..NOW!

  2. nhamodzenyika September 22, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

    even with such blantant evidence that zanu does not care for them one wonders how the people of ump are said to have voted for this useless party in large numbers in every election.really funny.

    • espha September 22, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

      People in the rural areas were forced by traditional leaders , militia and soldiers to vote for ZANU PF. The people were forced to all night pungwes by militia and soldiers to vote for ZANU PF. Now that all these rural folks are suffering with hunger , where are the soldiers and the militia who forced people to vote for ZANU PF, why are they not helping people with food? Why is ZANU PF not visiting rural areas to help people with food hand outs? So is it a case of out of sight out of mind for ZANU PF? Rural folks are only needed by ZANU PF in time for elections ,after elections they get abandoned. ZANU PF only forces people to vote for them, then when people are forced to vote for ZANU PF , ZANU PF then abandons the rural folks in their time of need.

  3. Exiled September 23, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    Such is life. we should only have our hope in God and no one else. God will fight for us.

  4. mascara September 23, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    There used to be feeding programs at schools to address this very issue of dropouts.Will those in power please urgently revive it.And to think this is also happening in uzumba of all places!

  5. Gutter Poet September 23, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    Is the minister aware that schools are sending children away from school for none payment of these usurous levies as we speak to date Lewisam, Courtenay Sealous, Greengroove have been sending children away..where is the Minister in all this???

  6. zvakabvondokera September 29, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    the school heads shoud channel the problems to the district education offices so that something should be done. waiting for the powers that be to act is wishful thinking. teachers must take the initiatives to force the feeding schemes into such areas with dire needs. with this weak and irrelevant government nothing will materialize out of them

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