|© UNICEF/Zimbabwe 2004|
|Children at the Msasane primary school during the launch of the New Zealand AID Project|
HARARE, Zimbabwe, 26 October 2004 – UNICEF is helping Zimbabwe’s children get an education through a pilot project which received funds from New Zealand. The two-year project will target 20 primary schools in Zimbabwe’s southwestern districts of Bulilima and Mangwe, with objectives to improve the quality of HIV/AIDS life skills education, provide educational opportunities and improve psychosocial care for 10,000 orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC).
The impact of HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe has been tragic. More than 800,000 children are estimated to have been orphaned by the disease. For many of these children, schools offer not only a place to learn but also a safe space where they can interact with other children, receive meals and learn important life skills.
The funding is critical at this time, because many children affected by HIV/AIDS have been forced to drop out of school. A recent increase in school fees also contributed to the problem. Last year alone, enrolment rates dropped 30 per cent, and are now at 65 per cent nationally, meaning that many of the children most in need of support are now outside the educational system.
Olga Ngwenya, headmistress at Msanane Primary School in Mangwe District, is struggling to cope with the impact of the HIV/AIDS crisis, as are most school heads in Zimbabwe. HIV/AIDS has left many of her students without parents.
“They are added every month, every week you get an orphan. The situation is quite bad, because when we look at the statistics, in January we had 63 orphans and now I think we have more than 129 orphans,” says Ms. Ngwenya, whose school will benefit from the project.
UNICEF officials and teachers in Zimbabwe’s schools have high hopes for the project. “If this project is successful we are hoping that … the pilot schools will become model schools for the teaching and learning of HIV/AIDS life skills,” says UNICEF Education Officer Bernard Batidziral.
Mr. Batidziral says that the Ministry of Education receives almost 30 per cent of the national budget. However, despite this and despite the contributions from abroad to support educational programmes, the schools still need more funds.
“The money is still not enough to cater for orphans and vulnerable children we have at this point in time. Therefore it is still important to come up with other initiatives which are community based, community driven, so that the communities play a more important role in terms of financing education,” says Mr. Batidziral.