Thursday, January 19, 2006

Zimbabwean Children: Born to Suffer

Zimbabwean children are the most tragic victims of the ongoing crisis in the country. Many of them have been swept from the comforting grip of the innocence of their youth by the harsh socioeconomic environment and the devastating AIDS pandemic. This generation of Zimbabwean children have ultimately been forced to assume responsibility for a fate they did little to choose or cause. They have been forced to mature beyond their years, and for many beyond their means.

The most wrenching aspect of the plight of these herioc children is that society has turned its back on their future. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Zimbabwe's fast deteriorating education system. Plagued by a government that is unwilling mantain standards in schools across the country because that would neccesitate school fees increases (which would rile parents), and demotivated teachers who are working under paltry conditions, Zimbabwean education has taken a tragic nosedive in the last five years.

Two weeks ago schools across the country were scheduled after the annual Christmas holiday was prolonged by two weeks because of the senate elections. There are no indications on this year's school calender that students will be granted to he opportunity make up for time lost. No one in government seems to care.

In a space of 10 years Zimbabwean parents have gone from being able sustain subsidized tuition payments that were only a fraction of their monthly income to having to pony up school fees amounting to up several times their salaries. In an ironical turn of events, the prevailing hyperinflationary environment has stripped teachers of their ability to send their own children to the same schools they teach in. Earning anywhere between 3-10 millon, there's no way a teacher who teaches at a school charging fees of 17 million can afford to educate their children.

So schools are fast becoming bustling centers for Zimbabwe's pervasive yet essential alternative market. Educators across the country are bringing various wares to work them in a new trend. When break time or recess comes, the school children are encouraged to buy snacks from their teachers. And since most of the teachers' time is spent refining their in school commercial enterprise, concerned parents have resorted to sending their children for private lessons after school. This has ironically led teachers to become even more languid in their classroom efforts. They know that minimal progress at school guarantees them business for private lessons after school--another source of direct income.

It is sad to realize that Zimbabwean children not only have to bear the brunt of today's problems, but when tomorrow comes they are also guaranteed tough life. All this because of a government that does not care for anything beyond of their own appetites and propensities.

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