Unplanned pregnancies hinder girls from school after lockdown

ABOUT 80 percent of learners turned up for school from Monday when non-examination classes opened from schools in Bulawayo, with fears that a number of girls fell pregnant and could not go to school.

The situation is however different for rural schools in Matabeleland North and South Provinces especially in rural areas where many learners dropped out of school during the onset of COVID-19 last year.

Reasons for dropping range from pregnancy, financial challenges, poverty, marriage and early job seeking behaviors.

Bulawayo Provincial Education Director, Mrs Olicah Kaira said although it was too early to conclude, at least 80 percent of her learners were back at school.

Mrs Kaira pleaded with parents and guardians to ensure that all learners go to school despite challenges as the Government has made provisions to cater for those in need.

“It is probably too early to have conclusive results although in some instances we have recorded successes on learner turnout. Since reopening of the non-exam classes turn out has been 80 percent for both learners and teachers in Bulawayo,” said Mrs Kaira.

“We hope that as the days continue they will come in their numbers as we conducted community outreach programs urging parents and guardians to ensure that every child comes to school.”

Nkayi South Legislator who is also part of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education, Ms Stars Mathe said in rural areas, a majority of learners did not turn up since schools opened last week.

She said part of the reason was parents and guardians had a wait and see attitude regarding the transmission of COVID-19 in schools.

“It is true that many children did not show up for school since opening on Monday and part of those fell pregnant during the lockdown induced long holidays. We also have some communities who are not yet sure about COVID-19 and they are not ready to send their children to school fearing they may contract the deadly virus,” she said.

“Parents and guardians should understand that the opening of schools was decided on after serious considerations by the Ministry of Health and Child Care and that of Education. We should trust these ministries to be monitoring the situation at schools and then ensure that every child is at school.”

Ms Mathe said communities should engage their leaders if any child was facing challenges so that every learner accesses education which is right.

“Parents should release children and let them go to school and not use them for household chores as they enjoyed that luxury during the long holiday. This term is very short and soon they will be writing exams hence they may not make it if they continue being absent. Our teachers are also under pressure to complete the syllabus so children should be at school so that we secure their future.”

One of parents from Gwanda, Ms Anna Mandizha said there are a lot of socio-economic issues that should be addressed before 100 percent is expected in all schools.

“COVID-19 induced lockdowns affected many children and some found it easy to join gold panning that patiently waited for schools to be open as they were idle for the longest of time. We also have other children whose parents are willing to use them for labour in the fields to raise money as they do not value education,” she said.

“We also have many families with no means to take their children to school, these need help and unless the Government intervenes the learners will stay at home until they are married off.”

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