Binga, Kariba report drop in school enrolment as poverty weighs

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Pupils at Sawiramakwande Primary School in Nyaminyami DIstrict in line for supplementary feeding

Tawanda Marwizi

THE 2018/2019 drought has been one of the worst to ever hit Zimbabwe over the years

It has caused devastation and untold suffering to a population that was already reeling from a struggling economy.

It has disrupted lives in many ways and vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly have been hit hard.

The situation in Nyaminyami (Kariba) and Binga districts has had devastating effects for children who are bearing the brunt of the drought with hunger and malnutrition rampant.

Just like the rest of Zimbabwe, the rains have been poor while the situation has been made worse by wild animals which destroyed crops in the fields.

Children are failing to go to school not only because they are hungry but many have had to join adults in the search for alternative sources of survival.

As a result, enrolment has plummeted at most of the schools in the two districts including at Chikuro Primary School in Gweshe Village, Ward 7 in Siyakobvu.

Teachers at Chikuro said those children who come to school succumb to hunger, lack concentration and even dose off during lessons.

“Besides absenteeism from school, most pupils come here and sleep. In most cases they tell you that they are hungry and there is nothing you can do as a teacher,” one of the teachers said.

The school has an enrolment of more than 500 pupils. According to information provided, ECD to Grade Five pupils are the most affected by malnutrition.

The situation is worsened by the long distances the children travel to get to school.

School authorities say efforts to engage the local community over declining of enrolment figures are futile as the parents have no solutions to the problems.

Fortunate Maketo, from Village Head Siyajena’s area said despite government or non-governmental organisations’s interventions, hundreds of families have been surviving on one meal a day.

“There is drought in this area so people are forced to look for food that can sustain their families. We are surviving on a meal a day so we need to fend for our families.

“Yes we get food aid from government and some organisations but it does not take us far,” she said.

There are reports of children who have joined artisanal mining in search of gold while others go in search of fruits when they are supposed to be going to school.

“The situation back home gives them pressure to abandon school going for fruits. We have been receiving reports that our children are not going to school and are busy getting fruits from the wilderness,” said Yemurai Katumbu, another villager from the same area.

Mutengu Primary School used to have 371 pupils but the enrolment has dropped to less than 200 because of the impact of the drought.

Some children at Sawiramakwande School also in Nyaminyami are opting to hunt wild animals in search for food.

At Manjolo Primary School in Binga, the headmistress Monica Zharare, said enrolment had dropped from 918 to 692.

“We had a very big enrolment because the catchment area of the school is big. But now because of hunger we are facing serious challenges,” she said.

The pupils’ performance has also dropped due to the current situation.

A local nutritionist, Tarisai Mururi said malnutrition affects the children’s ability to concentrate in class explaining that the younger students are the ones that are affected the most.

“If there is hunger then we have cases of malnutrition. So in Kariba, especially in Ward 8, some pupils are malnourished and their concentration becomes low,” she said.

The situation in these two districts has prompted the government to partner with the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS) to intervene by distributing grain and beans to the children.

The ZRCS is providing beans, cooking oil and transportation to some of these schools through the Child Nutrition and Food Security programme.

The organisation which works as a government auxiliary has covered 15,000 vulnerable children (0-23 months, 24-59 months and 5-13 years) in wards 3, 6, 7 and 8 of Kariba district and wards 7, 8, 9, 10 and 13 of Binga district.

ZRCS organisation’s secretary general Maxwell Phiri recently applauded the organisation’s partners, the Danish Red Cross Society for supporting the noble initiative.

“As the Red Cross movement we are there to alleviate human suffering wherever it is found and however it is caused.

“We thank our partners the Danish Red Cross for supporting this initiative aimed at stamping out malnutrition while keeping students in school to break the poverty cycle,” he said.

The intervention is seeing affected children in these areas making their way back to school.

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