DFID's Assistance to Zimbabwe - International Development Committee Contents

6  Children


130. DFID describes the education sector in Zimbabwe as being in crisis. Many teachers have been lost through migration caused by political intimidation and violence, or driven out of the profession by poor salaries. An estimated 25,000 teachers left Zimbabwe in 2007 alone. It has been reported that the number of children attending school dropped from 85% in 2007 to below 20% in 2009, mainly due to unaffordable school fees (introduced in 1991) and the shortage of teachers.[202] Rob Rees of CAFOD told us that: "In the past Zimbabwe had a very high standard of education and a very high standard of teaching. Quite rightly it was proud of it." However, the situation now was that "some of the best education in the countries around Zimbabwe is provided in schools where there are Zimbabwe exiled teachers."[203] The Inclusive Government has provided an allowance of $100 to all civil servants, including teachers and, according to DFID, there are early indications of recovery in the education system. Most schools are now functioning, but with reduced capacity.[204]

131. In its recently published Education Strategy for 2010-2015, DFID states that education is a basic human right and "a very good investment". It says that "there is strong evidence linking levels of education [...] to economic growth."[205] We were therefore surprised that DFID spends only 2% of its aid in Zimbabwe on education.[206] DFID officials clarified in oral evidence that the 2% referred only to its pooled funding. He pointed out that the Programme of Support (PoS) for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (see next section) also had an educational element. The total value of educational support was therefore £2.4 million, or 6% of the total budget.[207]

132. In 2009 DFID agreed to allocate £1 million for the provision of technical advice and seed funding to the Transitional Education Fund, a pooled financing mechanism with other donors which is now worth $50 million.[208] The assistance the Fund will provide includes procurement of textbooks, exercise books and classroom furniture.[209] At the school we visited in Matabeleland, six children had to share each textbook.

133. We were told during our visit that books procured through the Fund had not yet reached schools, and we asked the DFID Minister about this. He accepted that teachers were not receiving new books as quickly as they wished but pointed out that DFID had to ensure that "we get the procurement process right and [...] that we try to deliver economies of scale." Mark Lowcock explained that "we were trading off speed with efficiency and value for money. We have got a much cheaper deal and, therefore, can buy many more textbooks in the way we have done the procurement."[210] When we pressed the DFID witnesses on when deliveries of books could be expected, they told us:

    [...] we are not in complete control of this because we are a tiny part of the financing. We have to get all the other players into place as well [...] the contract will be let in the next few weeks and the first books will be delivered from about eight weeks from then, so about 12 weeks from now the first books will be delivered.[211]

134. Zimbabwe needs considerable donor support to rebuild its education system, which used to be one of the best in Africa. The main problem is shortage of teachers which can only be addressed through wider recovery of the economy and political system and through the Government finding ways to pay adequate salaries to public servants. We recommend that DFID discuss with its donor partners whether further support could be offered to help attract Zimbabwean teachers back from neighbouring countries and from Europe. There is also a severe shortage of textbooks. DFID is a small contributor to the multi-donor fund set up to provide educational materials. It is regrettable that it has taken so long for the books procured through the scheme to reach schools. DFID may only be funding a small fraction of this programme but it is a lead donor in the country and should apply pressure on its partners to increase the efficiency of the procurement process.

Orphans and vulnerable children

135. According to WHO, 41% of Zimbabwe's population is under 15 years of age.[212] World Vision highlighted that children are one of the most vulnerable groups in Zimbabwe. It said that "economic conditions have led to an increase in rates of child abuse, such as child labour, forced marriage and physical and sexual abuse."[213] DFID told us during our visit that children remain extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. They are at risk of taking up hazardous forms of child labour to support their families, and many may end up living and working on the streets, where they are vulnerable to child trafficking. It believed that continued support for these children was urgently needed.

136. The Consortium for Street Children highlighted that the number of children on the street or in abusive homes is increasing. The causes include unemployment and poverty, which force parents to send their children out to beg to supplement family incomes. Other factors driving children on to the streets include family breakdown, crime, neglect, and physical or sexual abuse.[214]

137. DFID says that one in four children has been orphaned, with 1.6 million having lost at least one parent. The plight of children affected by HIV/AIDS is particularly acute, with nearly a million orphaned or otherwise affected by the disease. 79% of orphans and vulnerable children receive no external assistance. DFID estimates that more than 90% of the country's orphans have been absorbed by the extended family. 40% of households in the poorest areas of rural Zimbabwe care for orphans and other vulnerable children, but less than half these households receive any form of external support.[215]

138. DFID is a lead donor in the Programme of Support (PoS) for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs), contributing £22 million over four years through UNICEF and NGO partners.[216] The PoS is targeted on children who are vulnerable due to abuse and neglect, economic hardship and displacement. It provides support for community-based initiatives and is channelled through approximately 30 NGOs to over 150 community-based organisations. The programme includes measures to improve health, education, access to clean water and nutrition for the orphans and vulnerable children, as well as psychosocial support. PoS is part of the National Plan of Action for OVCs which DFID says has the support of the highest levels of government, as well as the UN and civil society in Zimbabwe.[217]

139. One of the key elements of the PoS is the support it provides for increasing access to education by paying school fees and providing remedial support for children who have missed out on years of schooling. DFID says that, by July 2009, the programme had benefited over 350,000 children and that 205,000 children were in education who would not otherwise have attended school. In 2009-10, the programme's Basic Education Assistance Module was expected to ensure 700,000 OVCs were educated.[218]

140. Some of us saw the support offered by PoS at the Mavambo Learning Centre in Harare. The Centre provides intensive education for out-of-school children to bring them up to the standard necessary to enter school. We met a number of children who were participating in the programme, many of whom were living in an IDP camp. They told us about their experiences and their hopes for the future. We found their accounts of their lives very moving and were impressed by their resilience and determination to succeed in their education.

141. A recent survey found that 70% of children who lived or worked on the streets of Harare had no birth certificate or identity documents.[219] It is necessary to have a certificate to get into school and to access benefits, but many children had lost theirs through the death of parents or displacement from their homes. The PoS therefore also helps OVCs to obtain birth certificates. More than 4,000 children have so far been assisted in this way by PoS implementing organisations.[220]

142. Current funding for the PoS is due to end in 2010. DFID is now assessing the impact of the programme on reducing the vulnerability of OVCs focusing on: the impact of interventions and the number of children being reached; and the cost-effectiveness, benefits, strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches it uses. Lessons learned will be used to inform the design of the follow-on programme.[221]

143. DFID's Programme of Support has brought vital assistance to children, including those whose vulnerability is compounded by loss of parents as a result of HIV/AIDS. The support has helped thousands of children to continue their education as well as ensuring that they are fed and have access to counselling to address the traumas they have endured and which many continue to suffer because of displacement, abuse and neglect. This is clearly fulfilling an essential and continuing need. It is right that DFID should assess the impact of the programme to date to enable it to decide how it can best continue to assist orphans and other children disadvantaged by poverty and HIV/AIDS. We recommend that, in response to this Report, DFID provide us with an indication of its future plans for supporting vulnerable children in Zimbabwe and the level of funding it will commit to this work.

202   "For Mugabe's children, life gets tougher and tougher", The Independent, 28 February 2010  Back

203   Q 38 Back

204   Ev 57 Back

205   DFID, Learning For All: DFID's Education Strategy 2010-2015, p 11 Back

206   DFID, Press Factsheet, 15 October 2009 Back

207   Qs 112-116 Back

208   Q 112 Back

209   Ev 57 Back

210   Q 116 Back

211   Q 134 Back

212   WHO, WHO Country Cooperation Strategy 2008-2013, 2009, p 2 Back

213   Ev 89 Back

214   Ev 47 Back

215   EV 50 and "£22 million to improve the lives of Zimbabwe's rising population of orphans and vulnerable children", 12 April 2006 Back

216   DFID, Annual Report and Resource Accounts 2008-09 Volume 2, p 166 Back

217   Ev 60; see also DFID Press release, "£22 million to improve the lives of Zimbabwe's rising population of orphans and vulnerable children", 12 April 2006 Back

218   Ev 60 Back

219   Ev 47 Back

220   Ev 60 Back

221   Ev 60 Back

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