Economic hardships lead to more school dropouts

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Students returning to school in Harare

BY KENNETH NYANGANI
ZIMBABWE has of late experienced a sharp increase in child labour due to economic hardships, with most school dropouts ending up as street vendors to supplement their families’ incomes.

In its weekly review on socio-economic developments in the country, the Zimbabwe Coalition of Debt and Development (Zimcodd) said approximately 20 children joined the streets everyday as beggars and vendors.

”Since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zimbabwe has seen a rise in the number of child vendors. Child vending is nothing but a manifestation of a plethora of underlying dynamics that are militating against the rights and well-being of children,” the Zimcodd report read.

Some of these underlying dynamics include, but are not limited to poor social protection policies, economic meltdown, maladministration, poor public resource management, infrastructural gaps, child marriages, school drop outs, and exploitative and exclusionary policies.

“All these challenges seem to gain traction in the lives of children across the country despite the availability of a myriad of policies, legal, institutional and regulatory frameworks that speak to child protection.”

Zimcodd added that weak social spending had imposed an unbearable burden on children.

“According to the 2021 Zimbabwe Annual Report by Unicef, child poverty has increased tremendously in Zimbabwe.“

The report stated that  a third of women aged 20-24 years married before the age 18, 35% of children between the age of 5-17 were experiencing child labour, while 13% were working under hazardous conditions and over 51% of children were not registered at
birth.

“Zimbabwe has a population of approximately 15 million inhabitants, with 54% under the age of 20 while a 61,3% of children live in multidimensional poverty — worse in rural areas, high-density, and peri-urban informal settlements.”

Zimcodd said coupled with a weak human development index ranking of 150 out of 189 countries, approximately 3,5 million children were chronically hungry, while about 60% of rural girls and women encountered periodic poverty.

Child rights lawyer Caleb Mutandwa told NewsDay that child vending was being exacerbated by the collapsing economy.

“If the economy is fixed, we are going to see less child vending and labour, as well as the increase of graduates that do not have formal jobs,” he said.

“Parents and guardians cannot afford to send children to school. Even when children attend school, teachers do not turn up, hence they end up absconding or decide to drop out completely and resort to vending.”

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