Zimbabwe continues to face serious economic challenges which have significant implications on the education system. While the percentage of the national budget allocated to the education sector continues to be high (USD 803.8 million or 23 per cent of total budget in 2016), 98 per cent of this funding goes towards employment costs.
Despite these challenges, the education sector has seen consistent improvements in access and learning outcomes over the last three years. The Government’s requirement that all primary schools establish early childhood development classes has contributed to increased net enrolment (31 per cent) of 4-5 year olds. Primary net enrolment continues to exceed 93 per cent with gender parity, while lower secondary enrolment, though improving, remains at 52 per cent.
While overall enrollment has been increasing, more than 1.2 million children of school-going age between 3 to 16 years are out of school. Children from low socio-economic backgrounds, children from remote areas, orphans and vulnerable children and children with disabilities are at higher risk of dropping out and being marginalized from the education system.
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are marginalized not only in access to and completion of education but also in terms of the quality of education received. Students attending the 10 per cent of schools with the best performance in Grade 7 exams were 40 times more likely to pass the exam than students attending the 10 per cent of schools with the weakest performance. The top performing primary schools were better funded, had better teacher/pupil ratios, and were more likely to have trained teachers. The gap in performance reflects grave inequities among schools and the children who attend them.
The goal of UNICEF’s Education Programme is to increase equitable access to, and completion of, quality, inclusive education, with improved learning outcomes. Our programmes cover three main areas: equitable access, quality, system strengthening.