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UNICEF and partners launch massive effort to reinvigorate Zimbabwe’s schools

© UNICEF Zimbabwe/2009/Myhren
Fifth graders at Mutasa Primary School in Harare are among the many Zimbabwean schoolchildren who lack teaching and learning materials. The school will soon benefit from an influx of supplies that UNICEF and its partners have pledged to provide.

NEW YORK, USA, 14 September 2009 – UNICEF and its partners are launching a massive campaign in Zimbabwe to get textbooks into school classrooms.

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In one of the largest social initiatives of the past five years, the Educational Transition Fund announced today that it is spending $70 million on the initiative. Its goal is to ensure that all of Zimbabwe’s children receive a quality education.

Zimbabwe’s education system – once one of the best in sub-Saharan Africa – has declined to the point where one in five primary schools has no English, mathematics or African-language textbooks. As a result, pass rates have fallen significantly and more than 50 per cent of primary school pupils do not go on to secondary school.

Books in the schools

According to UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe Dr. Peter Salama, the initiative launched today will increase the ratio of learning materials – currently estimated at 1 textbook for every 10 students – to one book for every two pupils within the next year.

© UNICEF Zimbabwe/2009/ Mutseyekwa
Many second-grade students at Mutasa Primary School have to sit on the ground due to a lack of adequate facilities.

The campaign will also ensure that school fees are paid for a large number of the country’s orphaned and vulnerable children, and those affected by the country’s catastrophic economic downturn.

Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product has contracted drastically since 2000, explained Dr. Salama. “That’s resulted in rapid increases in household poverty levels. And when households are poor, they find it very hard to fund the basic school fees or levies or costs associated with getting kids to school, such as uniforms or text books,”  he added.

‘Visionary recommitment’

The education drive is supported by the Governments of Australia, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Commission.

The initiative’s broader goal is to kick-start Zimbabwe’s educational system as a whole.

“We know that historically Zimbabwe has highly valued education,” explained Dr. Salama, “So the issue is not so much getting kids to come to school. It’s more about ensuring they get a quality education once they’re there. And, of course, if you’re sharing one textbook between ten kids, it’s very hard to get a quality education.

“Support from these donors represents a bold and visionary recommitment to Zimbabwe’s children,” he added.




14 September 2009: UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on an ambitious new campaign to ensure that all primary schoolchildren in Zimbabwe get a quality education.
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11 September 2009:
UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe Dr. Peter Salama talks about a far-reaching new programme to reinvigorate education in Zimbabwe.
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