CLOSE to 60 percent of school going age children dropped out of school in Bulawayo Metropolitan Province, a worrying trend which has also seen the province having the lowest number of pupils within its schools.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has attributed the worrying trend to the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to an Education Statistics report released by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStats), for the period of 2018 to 2020, 59,1 percent of school going population dropped out of school in Bulawayo with 37,2 percent remaining at school while 3,7 percent have never been to school.
In terms of school dropouts, Bulawayo is followed by Harare Metropolitan Province which has 56,4 percent of its school going population leaving school, with Mashonaland West Province placed third with 55,4 percent.
Manicaland and Masvingo provinces have the lowest number of school dropouts with 47,2 percent and 48,2 percent respectively.
Mashonaland West has the least number of school going population at 35,3 percent followed by Matabeleland North at 36,4 percent while Mashonaland Central (37 percent) and Bulawayo (37,2 percent) are third and fourth respectively.
Manicaland Province has the highest number of children at school with 45,2 percent followed by Masvingo at 43,6 percent and Midlands Province which is at 40,5 percent.
ZimStats noted that there was a need to put in place more schools in the country and come up with deliberate policies to encourage those of school going age to attend classes.
“This calls for policy planners to put in place more education facilities to cater for the growing population. However, compared to the total population, the proportion of the 3-24 year age group has been on the decrease over the last three censuses,” reads the report.
In terms of the school going population that has never been to school, Mashonaland Central and Matabeleland North both have 10,5 percent followed by Mashonaland East with 9,5 percent and Mashonaland West at 9,3 percent.
In terms of gender comparisons, there are more females (53,9 percent) that have dropped out of school compared to their male counterparts (51,3 percent).
There are 41,9 percent male in schools compared to 31,7 percent females and 8,9 percent females have never been to school compared to 6,8 percent males.
Urban areas, however, have the highest number of school dropouts at 57,3 percent, with the rural areas having 50,3 percent dropouts.
A total of 40,4 percent of the school going population in rural areas is in school, while in urban areas the figure stands at 37,3 percent of the population.
9,2 percent of the rural school going population have never been to school of which in urban areas its just 5,4 percent.
The study further notes that there high levels of children meant to be in Early Childhood Development (ECD) who are not in school because parents are reluctant to avail them claiming they were still too young.
“Analysis into the age group 3-24 years gives a clearer picture of the attendance levels among the population which is expected to be in school. Out of the 1,2 million children in the age group 3-4 years, a majority of them, 60 percent had never been to school.
“This is despite the fact that children in this age group are expected to be attending early childhood education. Studies have shown that children in this age group do not attend school mainly because parents feel they are still too young,” reads the study.
The report also states that Zimbabwe has a high literacy level of 97,4 percent, while men and women have almost the same literacy levels of 97,9 percent and 96,9 percent respectively.
“The table reveals that literacy rates decreased with an increase in age, and are lower for females than for males, especially in older age groups. Literacy levels were generally high across all provinces. However, people with functional disabilities had slightly lower literacy levels compared to those without some disabilities,” reads the report.
Commenting on the continued high number of school dropouts being recorded in the country, director of communication and advocacy in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Mr Taungana Ndoro attributed the development to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said research has also shown that some learners had just felt a general disinterest in school.
Mr Ndoro said that had led the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to develop an advocacy based outreach programme this year which had seen them go around communities encouraging both learners and their guardians to note the importance of school and receiving some form of education.
“We came up with the Education Amendment Act where we were saying even young girls who fell pregnant or those who are married could come back to school, this is part of what we were telling our learners and guardians during these outreach programmes and they yielded a lot of successes, as we saw an increase in learners in our schools.
“Come next year, we will be continuing with this facility where we will also be saying to those that cannot afford paying fees there is the BEAM facility. What we must note is that the current learners we have will be the engine of Vision 2030 hence. We need them all to be in school,” said Mr Ndoro. – Sunday News