'Thousands of under-5s have no birth certificates'

HARARE - One in every three children under the age of five years in Zimbabwe do not have a birth certificate, according to Women in Politics board member Moira Ngaru.

Speaking at a press conference to assess the status on women’s rights in Harare this week, Ngaru said the high rate of unregistered children raised concern over the number of children who are unable to attend schools, because their parents or guardians failed to acquire birth certificates for them.

Ngaru said apart from the worrying rate of enrolment in primary schools, there was also concern over the rate at which children were dropping out of school.

“Birth registration is not yet at 100 percent and one in every three children are not registered, which is a really worrying percentage.

And there is also an unacceptable high rate children dropping out of school, where one in every 10 children does not complete primary education, and this is worrying,” Ngaru said.

“Yes, we do have a high literacy rate on paper but in reality it’s different on how that is transmitted to our everyday reality.  The percentage of school enrolment at entry age for Grade Ones stands at 73 percent and the question is what is happening to the other 27 percent.”

However, the high unemployment rate in the country, coupled with high school levies and long walking distances to school were also said to be hindering children from accessing education facilities.

“Secondary school enrolment stands at 60 percent and one reason is the bottlenecking at the transition stage from Grade Seven to Form One and girls are more affected than boys,” Ngaru said.

She said those who drop out of school were getting married.

Zimbabwe in 2015 propped up a campaign against child marriages, which resulted in debates on the age of consent.

Ngaru, who is also the executive director at Farm Orphan Support Trust, said girls were getting married as young as 12 years old, with local reports stating that  about 15 percent of female children aged 15 to 18 are already in marriages or in a union of some sort.

“Now in my practice as, I work with communities, I have discovered that girls are getting married as early as 12 years, 13 is like the average age and they are also being married by young boys.

“Education is getting to be a preserve of the elite because of the high levies, and the increase of exam fees and this has posed a challenge to the parents,” Ngaru said.


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