Harare, 24 January 2023 – As we celebrate the International Day of Education on 24 January 2023, it is useful to take stock of the status of education and learning in Zimbabwe and to reflect on ways forward to ensure access to basic education for all children of Zimbabwe.
UNICEF is happy to be able to build on the knowledge and expertise from Robert Jenkins, UNICEF’s global Director for Education and Adolescent Development, and David Morley, CEO of UNICEF Canada, who are on mission in Zimbabwe this week. Robert Jenkins and David Morley are meeting with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, and with education partners, donors and learners to better understand the education environment in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has a high net enrollment ratio in primary school. Nine out of ten children of primary school age are in school. This is among the highest enrollment rates in primary school on the African continent. This figure has remained stable in the last decade, which is a remarkable accomplishment. But our shared ambition is to do even more and reach universal enrollment of children in primary school.
The United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child highlights access to free primary education is a fundamental right of every child. This is reiterated by the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The Government has expressed its clear ambition to make access to basic education free for every child in Zimbabwe as of 2023.
For that to happen more investment is required for basic education. Poverty and disabilities are among the main triggers for out-of-school children in primary school. Because of poverty, parents and caregivers lack the resources for school fees, leading to absenteeism. This affects progress in ensuring inclusive education, especially for integrating children with disabilities who are often deprived of their right to learning.
Education also needs to be adapted to the changing environment. The Transforming Education Summit held in New York in September last year can further guide us. The Summit resulted in a call for all nations to support foundational learning as a key element to transform education; promote green education by making climate change education an integral part of learning; prioritize digital learning for all children; promote gender equity in education; and increase investment in education.
Zimbabwe can build on the lessons learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic from the introduction of digital learning through Learning Passport and the expansion of the digital connection thanks to the Giga partnership.
To explore new avenues of public funding for education and to build on the Ministry’s draft Schools Financing Policy, UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary and the Zimbabwe Economic Society is organizing on 25 January the High-Level Policy Dialogue on Education Financing.
Ensuring the needed public funding and transforming education to tap into new opportunities to respond to the needs learners face, are key to contributing to universal access to basic education in Zimbabwe. Let us all – Government, donors, education partners and learners – work together to tackle these challenges and top realise the dream of every child in Zimbabwe to develop his or her full potential through education.