A new report by the Union of Education Norway in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) indicates that Zimbabwe has recorded a 20% increase in school dropouts since 2020 following the outbreak of COVID-19.
ZIMTA education director and senior coordinator Dennis Sinyolo told NewsDay that the report was an assessment of the impact of the closure of schools during COVID-19-induced lockdowns. Said Sinyolo:
We discovered that, indeed, there were so many problems with some being common knowledge that the closure of schools brought about a lot of dropouts.
Some learners were affected to a point where it was very difficult for them to return to school when schools reopened.
Some 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.
Sinyolo added that while learners in urban areas may have benefitted from online learning during the lockdown period, those in the rural areas and children from poorer families were left behind.
However, Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro dismissed the report as false. He 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.