Last month, Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster ran a news story about a schoolgirl appealing for help on behalf of her 15-year-old paraplegic brother. She had to cart him to school every day in a wheelbarrow as the family, living in the southern rural province of Masvingo, could not afford to buy the boy a wheelchair.
“It’s tough for both of us,” the 13-year-old sister said. “For him sitting in a wheelbarrow is not comfortable. As for me, I am now suffering from chest pain from pushing the wheelbarrow for the long distance to school.”
The story undoubtedly highlighted the plight of disabled children who often fail to attend classes because of the lack of a proper means to travel to school. This is also coupled with the fact that rural school children often walk long distances of up to 20 kilometers to get to the nearest school.
The Masvingo siblings’ plight soon drew generous responses from individuals and firms who donated foodstuffs and wheelchairs, with one well-wisher offering to enroll the boy in a boarding school and save him from wheeling himself to school every day while in a wheelchair – which is a distance of 12 kilometers both ways. But for thousands of others in similar circumstances help is not as forthcoming, forcing them to miss school from the start or to drop out along the way.
To alleviate the plight of disadvantaged schoolchildren in Zimbabwe, Germany - through the German Development bank KfW - contributed 15 million Euro on May 27, to the second phase of the education development fund (EDF) aimed at improving access to quality education for Zimbabwe’s children.
The main focus of the funding lies on strengthening the resilience of schools to external shocks through assisting schools to start income-generating projects to raise money to upgrade their facilities rather than wait for scant funding from the overburdened national fiscus.
Germany has been one of the major contributors to Zimbabwe’s education development fund since its inception in 2010 with an overall engagement of 61 million Euro.
During the first phase (2011-2015), Germany donated 32 million Euro. For the second phase (2016-2020) Germany provided 29 million Euro, including the latest grant meant to sustain the gains in the education sector against the challenging Zimbabwean social and economic environment.
“Together as partners we celebrate an important development in Zimbabwe's education sector in the form of the Government of Germany's contribution of 15million Euro to support strategic components of the education sector,” Primary and Secondary Education Minister Paul Mavima said.
UNICEF representative Dr. Mohamed Ayoya also hailed the assistance given by the German government. “The activities supported through German funding are of a strategic nature, and are designed to achieve sustainable, system-wide impacts that benefit all children, with a particular focus on those children who are most disadvantaged,” said Ayoya.
The funds will be used to support the school improvement grants including school feeding and income generating activities, the provision of reliable access to water and sanitation services for schools, and the implementation of the new curriculum introduced by the government to nurture self-reliant pupils. Through the funding from Germany the education fund will continue to support children with disabilities.
The Education Development Fund is led by UNICEF in partnership with the Government of Zimbabwe and is supported by international partners, including the governments of Germany and the United Kingdom as the main donors.
The second phase of the Education Development Fund from 2016-2020 focuses on improving equity and access to quality education, especially for marginalised children and those with disabilities. According to Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe schoolchildren as young as six travel distances of up to 16 kilometers every day to their nearest school.
“The schools themselves comprise dilapidated structures with some having classes under tree where lessons are abandoned in bad weather,” the union said. “The bulk of the rural teachers are underqualified, less experienced than their urban counterparts and generally demoralised which results in poor performance in rural schools.”
© GIC Africa