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Commuting pupils face daily nightmare


Amon Musoni (not real name) has just started Grade Zero and every school day he is awakened by his mother at around 4:30am to prepare for school. The five-year-old has to use two buses every day to get to school.

At such a tender age, such a long- haul routine has started taking its toll on him.

Sometimes he fakes illness just to avoid travelling to school, and at other times, in the brashness of youth, he tells his mother he is fed up with going to school.

Every day its a struggle to get him out of bed and sometimes I feel pity for him because I think we are a bit harsh on him. I wish we had enrolled him at a nearby school, but we want him to get a good education and schools in our neighbourhood dont provide that, said the mother.

Amon is just but one of the many children who have to wake up early in the morning so that they can get to school in time despite having to use two buses to and from school. Many pupils can be seen early in the morning commuting to their respective schools in this manner.

We start at 7:10am and its difficult to be on time because it will be peak hour, we would be competing with adults who would be rushing to their workplaces and we are always late, said Hillary Hama, who commutes from Chitungwiza to Harare.

The trips to school are very uncomfortable as the pupils are forced to sit in the tiny space between the drivers seat and front seat (paKadoma) by unscrupulous commuter omnibus operators.

To add misery to the pupils, they charge exorbitant fares to the desperate schoolgoers.

Sometimes the kombi operators just hike fares and we have to find our way home.

The parents know the fares and they do not give us extra cash and we end up being stranded in town, said another pupil who only identified herself as Chipo.

Parents said they decided to enrol their children in affluent areas because they are offered better education than in their areas.

There is a general difference between a student who is at school in a high-density suburb and those who are at former A schools, even their command of the English language is different.

So I urge the government to address the disparity so that we can enrol our children in our neighbourhood, said one parent who preferred anonymity.

There was an uproar recently when schools in the affluent areas recorded higher pass rates than those in the high-density and rural areas.

Some parents from the northern suburbs complained that their children were failing to get places at local schools because they would have been taken by children from distant places.

Its not that I want my child to commute every day to school, I know its very dangerous, but I am left with no option as I was told that the places were already full.

The government introduced the zoning system, but the school authorities are offering places on a first-come-first-served basis and this have affected the locals, said Thandiwe Moyo of Borrowdale.

Junior Parliamentarians who spoke to NewsDay said commuting was dangerous but sometimes pupils were forced to do so.

Junior MP Tariro Taderera of Kuwadzana East constituency said those who were commuting were greatly disadvantaged.

Pupils who have to commute are greatly disadvantaged.

If they use public transport they are easily delayed and lose track of time and miss their first lessons and if the time is added during the term, it will add up a great chunk of lessons being lost, she said.

They would be going to former A schools, institutions that offer better facilities to cater for their learning.

However, it is time-consuming hence the results might be the same, but local schools in high-density areas are generally looked down upon and it is relatively difficult to obtain places for further education if one comes from high-density schools.
Police spokesperson Inspector James Sabau however said there had not dealt with cases of children getting lost in transit to school.

A social worker with the Just Children Foundation in Harare, Robert Makura, said there was need to encourage parents to enrol children into schools within their locality.

This saves them from the hustle and bustle of waking up early in the morning and depriving them of sleep during those formative years.

This also saves the parents a lot of money in terms of bus fare for the child and, in some instances, the maids who take them to and from school when the child is still in the early grades.

He said it was important for the government to lay down standard procedures in setting up early child development systems to ensure that no school was better than the other.

Any school that meets the standards should be a good school. Usually parents send children to better schools just for prestige purposes, Makura said.

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