Preserve the right to education

HARARE - The hive of activity in Leopold Takawira Street in Harare this week could be mistaken for the festive season.

Parents and guardians were making last minute shopping to make sure their children are smartly-dressed when schools re-opened.

Children need to feel good and adequate when they are at school so they can concentrate on the important business of learning rather than being sent home for not having the right attire or for failure by parents to pay fees.

At Fourth Street bus terminus, commuter omnibus drivers were having their unorthodox driving skills tested as they had to negotiate their way out of the numerous and spacious school buses that were ferrying school children to various boarding schools.

Parents were very excited to see their children finally going to receive lifelong learning that will usher them into the future.

They also felt that if they do their best to their own children they are also setting high standards that children should follow when their time to be parents eventually arrives.

This paints a very pleasant picture but only for the few who have the financial resources to make their children realise that dream.

For the vast majority of parents who are groaning under the very challenging economic environment, the mere mention of the beginning of a new school term marks a sad episode.

It will be time to contemplate on where they are going to borrow the money for fees, uniforms and incentives for ever-hungry underpaid teachers.

As each term passes by, a lot more children are dropping out of school as parents, though willing, are increasingly unable to pay for their children’s education.

The gradual decline in economic activity and deepening poverty levels is the biggest violator of children’s rights than any other factor.

If children are denied this right then their whole life is in great danger. It means they miss out on any form of empowerment simply because they will lack the basic life- sustaining competencies that are needed for a vibrant and democratic society.

All campaigns against child abuse will not have any effect as children will be found wanting in terms of self esteem and basic communication skills to be able to report such abuses if at all they will be aware of any of these abuses.

If they are left from the school socialisation process, children will also be incapacitated to be future parents who should learn to co–exist with others in society.

This means the future stability and economic progress of the country will be constrained as generally assumed norms and values of a society will deteriorate to unsustainable levels making the vast majority of citizens “poor material for development”.

While the Education minister David Coltart is right in casting the optimistic thesis that the state of the education sector has gradually improved from the near collapse in 2008, the improvement is just quantitative to say the least.

In terms of the learning environment a lot still has to be done as more and more backyard institutions continue to sprout in both rural and urban areas with new urban settlements and farming areas being the worst affected.

Pupils are still not getting professional service as most of these “schools” are manned by unqualified teachers, with no textbooks and a general lack of sporting facilities which allow for total education.

The exclusion and marginalisation of children from poor households condemns them to an inferior complex.

We witness the vicious return of the bottlenecking system where only those who can pay will thrive while those able but poor will be lost forever.

The responsibility to ensure that children complete a full course of education from primary to secondary is the responsibility of national governments.

The Zimbabwean government should invest heavily in education to preserve the right to relevant education for all children. - Wellington gadzikwa

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