BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
PARENTS and guardians can no longer afford paying school fees with only 26% able to meet education expenses for their children, the Zimbabwe Statistics Agency (ZimStat) has said in its latest survey which exposed high poverty levels in the country.
The survey, which was conducted through telephone interviews by ZimStat, in partnership with the World Bank and Unicef, is based on the poverty, income, consumption and expenditure surveys (PICES) of 2017 and 2019. It was meant to measure the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe. It sampled households throughout Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces.
Findings of the surveys show that financial constraints on the part of parents and guardians have been inhibiting children from attending school.
“Schools were reopened in September 2021 after being closed for a whole term from May 2021 to August 2021 during the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic,” World Bank economist Dhiraj Sharma said while presenting the report.
“The results of the sixth round survey indicated that nationally, 92% of school-age children were attending school since schools had opened, and almost everyone who was attending school was doing so in person. Financial constraints were the main reason keeping children out of school. In the 6th round, 26% of the households paid fees in full, while 52% paid school fees in part,” Sharma said.
“The remaining 22% made other arrangements to pay school fees. In urban areas, 50% of households paid school fees in part, compared to 53% rural households.”
Educationist and Zimbabwe Teachers Association president Richard Gundane said failure by parents to pay school fees would stifle service delivery in schools as government was underfunding the education sector.
“International standards require government to commit 20% of the budget to the education sector, but in Zimbabwe it is only 12% which leaves the parents with a burden to fund development of schools. If they then fail to pay the fees, it then means that schools cannot afford to fund some of the necessities, and it affects how schools are run,” said Gundane.
The survey also revealed that government was losing millions of dollars through the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme because the majority of the beneficiaries were not paying back the loans after harvesting.
Under the programme, adopted to mitigate the problems of low productivity, low profitability and food insecurity, government provides inputs through the Presidential Inputs Programme to 1,8 million small-holder farmers throughout the country.
“It was shown that among the households who participated in the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme, 83% of the households received payment from GMB for delivered crops. Eighty-seven percent (87%) of the households in rural areas received payment from GMB for delivered crops. Nationally, it was also shown that 24% of the households that participated in the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme paid back the value of inputs received through the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme, and these households were in rural areas. It was also noted nationally that 86% of households which participated in the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme were satisfied with the programme,” said the report.
The ZimStat survey also revealed that only 3% of the national population benefited from the various social safety nets that were put in place by the government to cushion citizens from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, Auditor-General Mildred Chiri reported gross irregularities and deliberate manipulation of figures of donations meant for COVID-19 relief allowances by government officials.
“About 7% of households in urban areas received COVID-19 cash transfers, while their rural counterparts received only 1%. Nationally, about 3% of households were covered by social safety nets,” Chiri observed.