Thousands risk dropping out of school

HARARE - Over 300 000 orphans and disadvantaged children who depend on State assistance for tuition risk dropping out of school.

Under the Basic Education Assistance Model (Beam), government allocated $10 million in last year’s national budget to pay the children’s fees, an amount Parliament’s Social Welfare portfolio committee said was grossly inadequate, catering for only a third of those in need.

The committee’s announcement last week that the Beam allocation was way below the required amount is on the back of hard-pressed guardians of the beneficiaries making pleas for help.

“According to the ... Social Welfare ministry, the 2016 National Budget allocation...will only cater for 161 102 children out of an estimated 500 000 children in need of school fees assistance. This may result in a high rate of school dropouts leading to reduction in human capital investment, early marriages and high juvenile delinquency,”  the committee said in a damning report further calling for an increase of Beam funds by 172 percent.

“All stakeholders appreciated the assistance rendered by Beam in affording students from poor backgrounds opportunities to learn and improve their future prospects,” the committee said, adding the fund must also cover Advanced Level and tertiary education students. 

This ultimately results in disappointment for beneficiary students who pass Ordinary Level examinations as they can neither afford to advance their education nor find formal employment ...”

Government has been battling to pay the education costs of nearly a million orphans and vulnerable children through Beam — a cash transfer programme that pays tuition fees, levy and examination fees for children who cannot afford to.

This comes as Zimbabwe’s economic crisis has led to massive job losses, making it impossible for multitudes of parents and guardians to pay tuition fees.

The Beam programme is currently funded by the government and Department for International Development (DfID) — a UK funding partner.

The Social Welfare committee — led by Zanu PF proportional representation MP Goodluck Kwaramba — also noted the late disbursement of funds from Treasury.

“The committee learnt that, as at the time of the visit, Beam programme payments had last been remitted to schools during the second term of 2013 and the 2015 ‘‘O’’ Level examinations fees had not yet been paid. Headmasters bemoaned that delays of payments derailed school development projects,” the committee said.

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