CHILD rights activists have called on Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube to guarantee that children in the country have access to education through his 2023 budgetary allocations.
Ncube is expected to announce the 2023 national budget at the end of this month.
Tag A Life International founder and director Nyaradzo Mashayamombe said most children were affected as they dropped out of school during the COVID-19 pandemic, hence the need to support them through state funded education.
"We have an issue whereby more than 50% of young children are out of school as a result of exorbitant school fees despite that the Education Amendment Act stipulates that the government is responsible for ensuring that children have access to state funded education,” Mashayamombe said.
“Ncube should ensure that there is free basic state funded education through his 2023 national budget. By funding, we are not saying the government should say we have allocated 20% towards the education sector, yet 95% of the allocation goes towards salaries. There is a need to separate education issues and fund education infrastructure, books and other school projects. When children are in school, they also need to be protected from all forms of violence, child marriages, and sexual violence.”
She said the 2023 budget must ensure that children have access to health, food and shelter.
“Schools must also be constructed closer to children’s homes as well as at remote areas in the country. Poor communities must also have schools that are fully equipped. The Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) has failed, and government must ensure that fees for vulnerable children are paid on time,” Mashayamombe said.
Child rights expert and human rights lawyer Opal Sibanda said free and compulsory basic education must be prioritised by the 2023 budget.
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“Introduction of information communication technology (ICT) at schools must be done equitably to avoid the digital divide between urban and rural schools. Infrastructure at some remote schools does not promote learning. Budgetary processes must create opportunities for all children to realise their rights.”
Legislator in the Junior Parliament, Gamuchirai Kajiva said rural children must be supported through access to sanitary wear, electrification of their schools, and access to learning materials.
"The fact that girls can’t access these necessary things they need causes them to stop going to school. There is need for government to provide free sanitary wear for them. Junior councils and sports programmes for children must also be well funded as most children are idling and resorting to drugs,” Kajiva said.
A recent 2022 report by World Remit ranked Zimbabwe’s education sector as the most expensive, resulting in high school dropouts.