The people of Matabeleland want government to have an affirmative action on education in the region, especially building new schools, because the region lost out on such educational development opportunities during the Gukurahundi era.
This emerged at the recent Independent Dialogue session sponsored jointly by the Zimbabwe Independent and Radio Dialogue in the city.
Participants at the dialogue unanimously called on government to implement affirmative action in Matabeleland region in terms of development especially in the education sector arguing the region was lagging behind in that respect.
They raised their concerns with the Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, David Coltart, who was one of the panellists during the session held at the Bulawayo Club.
The discussion forum was held under the topic: “The Status of Education in Zimbabwe”.
“Could the minister please shed some light as to what the government is doing for the people of Matabeleland in terms of affirmative action, especially looking at the fact that we were seriously disadvantaged in the early 1980s because of disturbances here? We feel that our area is seriously lacking in terms of development,” said Peter Dube, one of the participants at the discussion forum.
“Our children do not have enough schools here. They have to walk more than seven kilometres to school and that is not being fair to them. Surely they cannot be expected to perform well in such an environment? We understand that in other areas, they have schools near to where they live,” he said.
In response, Coltart said Matabeleland was not the only province in the country that felt shortchanged by the centralisation of power.
However, Coltart admitted Matabeleland was marginalised in the 1980s.
“It is also a fact that the south-western parts of the country were marginalised. It is difficult to initiate development within the budgetary constraints that we have,” he said.
On the need to build more schools, Coltart said: “We cannot build new schools before we rehabilitate existing ones. As soon as we have resources, we clearly have to address that matter.”
Participants also complained that universities in the region enrolled more people from outside the region and that secondary schools in Matabeleland did not have sufficient resources such as science laboratories.
“We are identifying two schools per province to rehabilitate and also ensure that only children from those provinces will go into the schools,” Coltart said.
“We have identified four schools in the two Matabeleland provinces already. These will have laboratory facilities. Through this, we hope to address historical imbalances.”
Another panellist at the dialogue, National University of Science and Technology communication faculty dean Lawton Hikwa concurred with the participants and called on the Education ministry to take up the issue of development in Matabeleland seriously. “We have not seen schools being built here,” Hikwa said.