Education Transition Fund Distribution launch
As Zimbabwe’s schools open for the third term, the Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe, the international donor community, the United Nations led by UNICEF have lived up to their promise to supply textbooks to over 5 575 schools by launching the distribution of textbooks sourced under the Education Transition Fund (ETF).
A year ago the Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe initiated the ETF programme, a multi donor funding mechanism designed to mobilise resources for the education sector and ensure equitable access to quality education. The fund was set up to respond to acute shortages of teaching and learning materials, textbooks and supplies in schools where most were operating on a 10:1 pupils to textbook ratio. Once the pride of the Southern African region, and the symbol of dignity and joy among many nationals, the Zimbabwean education system has been affected by the economic decline of the past decade.
Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, who presided over the launch of the learning materials distribution, said that this was a demonstration of the Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe’s renewed commitment towards fulfilling the promise to restore basic social services for all. “This inclusive Government of Zimbabwe has been built on a commitment to stabilise the economy, restore freedoms and above all restore basic services which had nearly collapsed. We have prioritised education in our budgets and with the support from our donors; we are beginning to see tangible results in restoring the basic social services in Zimbabwe.”
The ETF is the first large scale, external support to the education sector in the last decade and will provide needed learning resources and textbooks to every Primary School. Over the past decade and against great odds, Zimbabwean communities have managed to keep their children in school and maintained high national enrolment.
In his remarks on behalf of the donor community in Zimbabwe, Norwegian Ambassador to Zimbabwe, H.E. Gunnar Foreland said “Of course providing supplies and paying fees will help but will not be sufficient to rebuild the entire education sector. The educational infrastructure-both physical and human- has deteriorated dramatically and will require sustained attention. Combined further investment through the next phase of ETF and through increased government allocations will be required.”
Commenting on the textbooks and other learning materials distribution Dr. Peter Salama, UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe, said, “Within a few weeks, every child in primary school will have a set of core textbooks. We believe that this will make Zimbabwe the only country in sub-Saharan Africa with a 1:1 ratio of textbooks to pupils in all core subjects.”
Under the ETF programme, over 13 million textbooks are being printed to ensure all school children receive stationery supplies and a text book in all the four core subjects – Mathematics, English, Environmental Science and a local language. This massive logistical exercise will see a total of 12,000 MT of school supplies (500 trucks load), including stationery, 13 million textbooks distributed across the country to the remotest parts of Zimbabwe in the next three months. 20% of the textbooks are being printed in Zimbabwe and the remaining 80% in the southern African region.
A robust supply chain will ensure that textbooks, stationery and other school supply from the UNICEF distribution centre are distributed to 22 hubs across the country and further transported by local transporters to reach each and every school in the country.
“This week children went back to school, because of this visionary partnership between the Inclusive Government, international donor community and the UN, children will go back to school with books and learning materials for the first time in years, said Senator David Coltart, Minister of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture. “It is a profound recognition that education is the foundation of Zimbabwe’s recovery.”
ETF resources complement resources provided to revitalize the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), an education assistance scheme managed by UNICEF which provides school fees and levies for more than 500,000 orphans and vulnerable children. During the period 2005 – 2010 in Zimbabwe, the chances of a child making a successful transition from primary school to secondary school dropped by almost one third for children from the poorest 40% of the population. Minister of Labour and Public Services, Ms. Paurina Mupariwa said “Functional and effective social protection mechanisms must continue to be in place to ensure that the needs of vulnerable children are met. Education plays a pivotal role in ensuring a protective environment to reducing risk to vulnerability on various fronts.”
Addressing participants, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr. Alain Noudehou said “The ETF model should be used in other basic social services sectors in Zimbabwe’s recovery and development”.
The next phase of the ETF will focus on expanding support to the secondary schools, providing teacher’s guides and textbooks for marginalized indigenous languages including Venda, Shangani, Tonga and Nambiya and also the development of textbooks in Braille. It will also focus on curriculum revision, improving quality of education and educational outcomes and supporting the implementation of the Ministry of Education new Strategic Plan.
The ETF was made possible by the generous assistance from the European Commission, the Governments of Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States.