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Against odds, Zimbabweans keep their children in school

HARARE 23 August – Against great odds, Zimbabwean parents and caregivers are keeping their children in school, and in some cases increasing national enrolment, UNICEF said today. At the same time, the UN Children’s Fund called on international support for Zimbabweans to ensure this positive culture does not disappear in the face of harsh economic realities.

Against a backdrop of a declining economy, rising unemployment, an orphan crisis, the world’s fourth highest rate of HIV/AIDS, inflation at 254%, and over the past two months mass homelessness as a result of a government ‘restore order’ campaign, different sources of national education statistics show that Zimbabweans have continued to demonstrate their resolve to keep their children in school.

National primary school enrolment rates have risen from 92% to 96% (from 2000 to 2004), while nearly four out of five orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) continue to go to primary school (77%). There is no significant difference in primary enrolment of orphans and non-orphans, and there is gender parity in primary enrolment.

“Zimbabweans are making many sacrifices so that their children can continue going to school,” said UNICEF’s Representative in Zimbabwe, Dr Festo Kavishe. “General enrolment is up, while families who have been greatly stretched by absorbing this country’s 1.3million orphans are somehow finding the means to keep orphans in school. Having said this, recent surveys show signs of strain in the families’ ability to support their children to go to school. I can think of no clearer reason why Zimbabweans deserve the full support of the international community.”

Even the most recent data from a UNICEF-led  UN assessment of the impact of the Operation Murambatsvina (‘restore order’) on children’s schooling status across Zimbabwe - and despite numerous relocations caused by the operation – shows that 90% of children affected by the Operation remain in school.

“There’s no doubt this is the strongest piece of good news story coming out of Zimbabwe,” said Dr Kavishe, “though at the same time we must strive to ensure that quality teaching is nurtured while we continue to aim for 100% primary school enrolment.” To make this happen, UNICEF says a constructive and positive engagement with parents and all stakeholders is timely.

With this in mind, UNICEF will support the Ministry of Education and all its partners to launch a Back to School campaign in September. The campaign will seek to re-enroll all children who dropped up during Operation Murambatsvina and access those most vulnerable children who were not in school prior to the operation.

“Education remains the engine to drive Zimbabwe’s long-term prospects, and it is clear from this data that Zimbabwean parents know that,” said Dr Kavishe. “With additional international assistance we can support the admirable endeavours of parents and communities across this country.”

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For further information, please  contact:

James Elder
UNICEF Zimbabwe Communication Officer
Tel: (263) 91 276120




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