THE Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency tells us that many of the country’s schoolgirls continue to have it rough as both the economy and society run roughshod over them.
A sizeable chunk of our school-going girls are dropping out of school in numbers far exceeding those of boys. The drop-outs are coming at the most critical stages of the girls’ lives, which is the secondary school level where the future of those attending school is mainly determined.
The adolescent girls are dropping out of school due to economic hardships facing their families which has had unfortunate ripple effects with many of the girls being impregnated.
A survey by a child rights group, Zvandiri, last year unearthed that between September 2021 and August 2022, over 20 000 girls dropped out of school after falling pregnant. We understand that 95% of the teenage pregnancies were unintended and attributed to poverty.
The figures mean that the girls were impregnated at a rate of more than 1 600 per month or over 55 every week during the one year period recorded by Zvandiri. This is more than shocking.
To say that the situation facing our girls at secondary school level is gravely dire is an understatement. The girls’ plight is more than embarrassing because it exposes the nation’s complete disrespect and neglect of the girl child.
Certainly, a society which cares about its children cannot discriminate against the girl child to the extent of seeing and hearing no evil about her plight by not being concerned that such large numbers of its girls are dropping out of school.
If the girls continue to drop out of school at this alarming rate, Zimbabwe is in serious danger of completely losing its moral campus because the girl child is the future of any nation given the critical nature of their existence on this planet.
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It is quite disheartening to note that the country seems not to have understood a very old African proverb which states: “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation).”
This is our very own African wisdom which, surprisingly Zimbabwe appears to be refusing to be guided by it in its quest to develop and become an upper-middle-income nation by 2030.
By allowing its girl child population to drop out of school in large numbers, the country is endangering its very existence because empowering a woman with education to change her own life will help change “the lives of those around her: Her children, her family, her friends, her community”, as some sages have concluded.
The girl child is an obvious central cog of any society; yet in Zimbabwe girl children are getting the short end of the stick as society seems uninterested in protecting them from abuse.
That Zimbabwe appears reluctant to empower the girl child by simply making sure that she is not disturbed in any way and is not distracted from attending school speaks volumes about our weak policies on women empowerment. In fact, what this simply tells us is that our nation is fast going off course as far as women empowerment is concerned.