Right to education under threat

LONDON - The right to education is a universal entitlement which is recognised in international human rights law.

It is a human right that includes the right to free, compulsory primary education for all and an obligation for secondary education accessible to all.

Reports at the weekend that up to 300 000 children are being forced to drop out of school every year are quite shocking. The right to education for child is under threat.

“The reality we face at the end of each academic year is that not all of our children and young people will pass their Ordinary Level examination,” said minister Francis Nhema

“(This is) not only from failing examinations but also many are dropping out of school due to socio-economic circumstances.

“The total of those failing examinations added to those dropping out due to these circumstances is in the range of between 250 000 to 300,000.”

The local education system has deteriorated to shocking levels. After independence, government introduced the building of primary and secondary schools in the rural and remote areas.

Primary education was declared compulsory; most primary schools in those rural areas were free.

However, over the years, the education system has progressively suffered. As has been indicated, pupils are dropping out of school in dispiriting numbers, placing the right to education for our children under threat.

The state of some schools is quite jaw-dropping.

Only last week, the Japanese government had to come to the rescue of Molo Primary School teachers and pupils in Bubi.

One has to see the pictures of the previous “classrooms” at this school to comprehend the state of neglect.  Simply, they do not deserve to be called “classrooms.”

Pupils had used dilapidated grass thatched, pole and dagga structures and cottages since the school was established in 2000. And we are in 2014.

“Pupils were sitting on tree logs while some sat on bare dusty floors.

“One of the mud blocks collapsed early this year following heavy rains,” said the headmaster Fortune Moyo. “Luckily no one was injured.”

Molo was probably one of a few ramshackles dignified as schools, and yet only resemble pens fit for cattle.

How has Zimbabwe managed to maintain the highest literacy rate in Africa given the number of drop-outs and sorry state of our schools?

According to the latest edition of The African Economist, Zimbabwe leads the continent with a literacy rate of 90.7 percent followed by Equatorial Guinea at 87 percent and South Africa with 86 percent.

The magazine defined literacy as the ability to read and write at the age of 15 and above.

These figures give comfort to a government that continues to neglect those responsible for these achievements. It can only be a tribute to the dedicated teachers, and headmasters like Moyo, that Zimbabwe retains this accolade.

It should, therefore, be disheartening that teachers, like the lot of hardworking civil servants, fail to be remunerated accordingly or on time. 

The danger is that this celebrated literacy record could decline in the next few years as teachers become more and more de-motivated because of poor remuneration and conditions.

While we can blame socio-economic circumstances on other factors, it is also painfully true that the government has had misplaced priorities and contributed to those conditions.

It is no longer acceptable to routinely attribute everything to sanctions when profligacy and corruption are clearly rampant across the body politic.

It smacks of callous selfishness that politicians, who enjoyed relatively good education, choose to prioritise other issues at the expense of the future generation.

The right to education, and good education is under serious threat. We risk losing a generation. 

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