Schools open on Tuesday and there are many little ones who are starting either Early Childhood Development or Grade 1. Congratulations to the little ones. I know parents are melting with joy and pride. To the little ones, I say welcome to real life.
May God bless these children as they enter all the different stages of their lives? For those in the final classes, these are the defining moments. For those in Grade 7 this stage defines which school and which class they will attend for Form One. Others, especially those in rural communities do not have a choice, but to enroll at the nearest secondary school. For those in the final classes in secondary school like Form 4 and 6, it is defining what career path they are going to take on their next stages of life.
We only hope and pray that children first of all, have the understanding of the nature of the effort required for this level and that, they apply themselves so that they can climb the next stage of their lives. Children are required to input their own efforts, and keep the focus and determination to get to the mark.
It is also a critical stage where parents need to show extra support for their children. I did my ordinary level in Shurugwi at Rusununguko Secondary School but the support from my mother made me realise that this stage of my life was important. She made sure that I was comfortable and that I would not go the fields frequently.
I would like to praise the amazing teachers who are responsible for the civilisation, knowledge and development of this nation and our world. Without them, we all would be nowhere. Teachers have taught us everything. They have laid their lives to give us a future which has given them the pleasure to watch us pass through their hands.
As schools open, we send love teachers commitment and courage to keep the country educated, developed and moving forward.
I am thinking, however, of those children who cannot afford education. There are thousands of children who are hopeless when it comes to education. They are herding cattle and working in the fields when others are going to school.
Depending on which stage a child is, some of them, mostly girls are being “trafficked” into cities to work as house maids. These usually are girls who would have completed Grade 7 last year and their parents cannot afford to send them to secondary school.
For the unfortunate ones, their parents force them into early marriages. Others will stay at home until patience runs out and end up marrying, thereby exposing themselves to poverty, violence and sexually transmitted diseases.
It is the right of each child to get a basic education. A basic education right is enjoyed when children do not have to be discriminated on any grounds to acquire education. Government has a policy that protects those in school from being denied a chance to continue with education. However, the policy seems to be blind to the fact that there are thousands of children who are failing to get to school.
Parents are required to pay school fees before their children are accepted in school. This discriminates children, especially those from poor backgrounds from accessing education. At the end of the day, potential development workers, leaders, potential politicians, potential global leaders are denied the opportunity to have a destiny.
Without an education one is nothing. Without an education, a woman is made vulnerable to atrocities and abuse, after all, they are the ones least preferred for education in our communities. They are relegated to unpaid and cheap labour. An uneducated man may have the least appreciation of equality and the rights of women as partners and therefore oppresses and violetes them.
The country robs itself of opportunities of contribution by this population. The country also increases dependence of this uneducated population on others, in the end, the country does not benefit from the demographic dividend. This may also increase high population which exposes the ecosystem resulting in unsustainable development.
Government needs to respond and make sure that every child is allowed a chance to education.
Government needs to ensure that schools are safe for children, especially girls. Last year saw a number of abuse cases that came from schools, especially on girls being raped or sexually assaulted by their teachers. We call for stringent measures to be put in place to empower girls to know their rights and to speak out against abuse. We also call on government to ensure that policy and systems of dealing with cases of child abuse, especially with regards to teacher-perpetrators, are strongly set and that they do not delay justice and access to post exposure prophylaxis.
Having said this, we do commend our government for efforts made to improve the education system. May every Zimbabwean make it their responsibility to contribute to educate children? Platforms such as the TaLI Education Fund which seeks to link a child with Zimbabweans who adopt a child and pay their school fees should be supported for a total education of Zimbabwe.
Nyaradzo “Nyari” Mashayamombe is the founder & executive director of Tag a Life International Trust, a girl child rights organisation. She is a development consultant, entrepreneur, musician and conference speaker. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org