IT is more than disturbing and saddening that the number of school dropouts increased by 20% since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

According to new findings by the Union of Education Norway and the Zimbabwe Teachers Association: “Some (pupils) lost their parents or guardians, while others joined the informal trading sector and gold panning. The girl child, in particular, was the most affected. Some of them got married and became pregnant at a very young age. The situation was quite bad.”

Given this very touching and glaring reality, it then comes as a real shock that some among us — in esteemed and very high offices seem to be lost to this situation.

Commenting on the latest findings on school dropouts Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro said: “Those are lies. We have children back in classrooms. We have had outreach programmes where we asked all learners out of school to come back to school. We have had an Education Amendment Act crafted and it stipulates that even pregnant girls must be allowed to continue with formal education. Those figures in the report are malicious.”

This, coming from someone who we believe should know better, is quite bewildering and more than disconcerting. It is emotionally overwhelming to imagine that we have people such as Ndoro who are so out of touch with reality that they have become completely blind to the poverty afflicting the majority of Zimbabweans who are currently struggling to afford basic education due to a poorly economy.

Ndoro’s remarks smack of snobbery of the highest order.

It is quite perplexing that Ndoro thinks that asking “all learners out of school to come back to school” was good enough and, therefore, meant that, indeed, all school-going children are back in classrooms.

Does he not belong to the same government that is currently struggling, if not failing, to support millions of disadvantaged pupils through the Basic Education Assistance Module? Presently there are an estimated four million children who cannot afford school fees and government has said it can only support just over a million, yet the likes of Ndoro would like us to believe that all is well out there.

COVID-19 destroyed many livelihoods — not only in Zimbabwe but across the globe and the prevailing economic situation is not making things any easier, meaning that the education of many children is now in jeopardy, yet Ndoro adamantly tells us that all this “are lies”.

It is quite unfortunate that the Education ministry appears to be glossing over the gut-wrenching issue of the country’s school dropouts. The numbers are set to escalate given the fact that many students could not afford registration fees for the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council exams.

The Education ministry must stop fooling itself that all is well when the majority of children are dropping out of school right under its nose mainly because of the glaring economic hardships wrought by COVID-19 and failing policies.

Source Newsday