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Communities find innovative ways to raise money for students in Zimbabwe

© UNICEF Zimbabwe/2006/Singizi
12-year-old Pauline (front row second from left), along with other members of UNICEF’s Girls Education Movement, which works to keep children in school.

By Tsitsi Singizi

BUHERA, Zimbabwe, 5 September 2006 – Like all Zimbabweans, the people of Buhera have endured some of the world’s worst inflation, crippling unemployment and an HIV emergency. But there is another basic need that the children here are missing – enough money to pay for their ever-rising school fees.

Now, more than 1,800 women across 15 rural Zimbabwean districts are taking action – harnessing their skills into innovative projects to raise the money needed to keep children in school.

“Keeping girls, orphans and other vulnerable children in school is a matter of economic common sense and the essential prerequisite for equality, dignity, and progress,” noted UNICEF’s Representative in Zimbabwe, Dr. Festo Kavishe.

A growing movement

Mandisina Mawere is passionate about education. The 72-year-old grandmother is working as part of an education support group that runs an income-generating gardening project. After negotiating with a nearby school for use of its well, the women began to grow and sell vegetables, using the proceeds to help pay school fees for the neediest children in their community.

© UNICEF Zimbabwe/2006/Singizi
Mandisina Mawere (right), one of the women involved in a gardening project to raise money for children’s school fees.

“As a young girl, I wasn’t allowed to go to school,” said Ms. Mawere. “Since then I have vowed I would never deprive my daughters of an education and now I am doing the same for my granddaughters.”

The women do not have to work entirely by themselves. The gardening project is supported by UNICEF in partnership with the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED). Together, they equip the women with counselling skills, money to purchase seeds and additional funds for school fees when necessary.

Partnering for education

Similar projects are being implemented in other areas of Zimbabwe. As part of UNICEF’s Girls Education Movement (GEM), enterprising schoolgirls in Nyanzira and Mumbijo have set up similar projects, such as running a small canteen.

“UNICEF is striving with the government and partners to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals, but it is Zimbabweans themselves who are critical – and selfless – contributors to this drive.” said Dr. Kavishe.

UNICEF supports approximately 3,000 GEM members in partnership with CAMFED, the UK’s Department for International Development and the Forum for African Women Educationalists.

“I was always chased away from school. I have two brothers and when my parents get any money they always pay their fees first. I was so excited when I was told by GEM that they were going to pay for my fees,” recalled 12-year-old Pauline.

“Poverty has forced many families in Zimbabwe to watch their children drop out of school,” said Executive Director of CAMFED in Zimbabwe, Angie Mugwendere. “Now, some mothers have decided to fight back.”





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