Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
THOUSANDS of pupils from vulnerable families are reportedly not registering for the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) meant to cater for their fees, with the Government indicating that figures from provinces were still short of the 1.5 million targeted learners.
In recent weeks, school authorities in Bulawayo have been sending messages to parents and guardians to register for BEAM as different educational districts have not registered enough to meet the set targets. It is estimated that in Zimbabwe there are about 4.5 million learners and of that number about 1,5 million are vulnerable and need educational assistance from the Government.
The number is said to have increased following the Covid-19 pandemic which saw a number of learners dropping out due to financial constraints after their guardians and parents lost jobs when the pandemic started. Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima told Sunday News on Friday that although he could not readily provide the figures of those who had registered so far, the Government had not reached its target under the programme.
Last year the Minister announced the expansion of the programme where the facility extended to buying school uniforms, paying examination fees and stationery for the learners who would have qualified. Previously, the facility catered for tuition fees only.
“We are coming out of Covid-19, that is part of the main reason, there was a late start to the new school calendar so the registration is still on going,” said Prof Mavima.
Prof Mavima also said the slow uptake of BEAM was also as a result of probable lack of information on the part of parents and guardians as some were not aware of where to go to access the service or the presence of the facility.
“Part of it also needs us to embark on information dissemination about the availability of the resource,” he said.
The Ministry has over the years also called for transparency in the awarding of funding for learners as some teachers and officials were accused of having their children benefit despite the fact that they were financially able to send them to school.
According to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee 2021 Rural Livelihoods Report, 23 percent of children of school going age are out of school, the main reasons being financial constraints, early unintended pregnancies and early marriages. The report also revealed that Matabeleland South Province had the highest number of children who are out of school (27 percent) followed by Matabeleland North with 26 percent.–@NyembeziMu