BY NHAU MANGIRAZI
RURAL schools in the country could fail to benefit from the Schools Improvement Grant (SIG) support offered by the country’s development partners after they missed the deadline to submit applications for the grant.
The fund is sponsored by a pool of donors that work with the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), which is the implementing partner.
SIG has targeted mostly rural and satellite schools since 2000. It has assisted poor schools with furniture, water and sanitation.
However, most of the schools that missed the January 15 deadline cited transport challenges as the impediment to the submition of applications due to the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
An internal memo at the Hurungwe district education offices seen by NewsDay reads: “It appears that only about half of the eligible school headmasters have come to submit SIG applications. This implies that schools may lose out on crucial funding in these difficult times.”
Another memo from Manicaland province also said: “Headmasters in Chipinge were being asked to visit district education offices to apply for SIG programmes during COVID-19 lockdown when there is no public transport.”
It is also said that only half of the schools in Gokwe district managed to submit their SIG application forms by January 22.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) secretary-general Robson Chere confirmed that most rural schools were at risk of losing out on the funding.
“It means there will not be purchasing of furniture in order to implement social distancing during lessons in 2021. Classrooms need to be decongested, and there is also need to acquire internet-based infrastructure to facilitate online learning during the COVID-19 period,” Chere said.
Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson Taungana Ndoro said despite the late submission of applications, government would ensure that all schools that qualify benefit from SIG.
“As a ministry, we assure the nation and all education stakeholders that all the payments will be done during this first quarter of the year so that the programme is fully implemented to benefit pupils,” Ndoro said.
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