Friday, 14 March 2014

British govt gives Zimbabwe $10 million for school fees

The UK government has provided an extra $10 million to enable thousands of poor children across Zimbabwe to access basic education.

The Social Welfare Ministry asked for help from the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), after the Zimbabwe government failed to fund its own Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) scheme.

BEAM is meant to offer social protection and pay primary school fees for one million orphans and vulnerable children.

The $10 million DFID funding commences in March and is aimed at 250,000 children in primary and special schools. This will be in addition to the $27 million that the agency provided in 2012-2013.

In all from 2011 to 2015, the UK expects to have invested $650 million in Zimbabwe's education, health, water and sanitation sectors.

"The UK is very pleased to be able to provide this additional support which will make a huge difference to the lives of the children who will benefit along with their families and wider communities," DFID's Jane Rintoul said in a statement.

The development agency however said this was likely to be the UK's final contribution to the education scheme, and urged Zimbabwe "to redouble its efforts to find additional funding sources".

MDC-T Shadow Minister for Basic Education Concilia Chinanzvavana said if DFID withdraws, thousands of disadvantaged children will lose out.

British govt gives Zimbabwe $10 million for school fees

"If DFID pulls out I don't see any future for the disadvantaged children who have been depending on this scheme for elementary education.

"Basic education is a right, not even a social welfare issue, but our government has failed to ensure this right for many poor children, including those with special needs," the legislator for Mash West told SW Radio Africa Wednesday.

She said Zanu-PF should think of the children as the party's officials loot and plunder national resources

In the past, there have been concerns over the way BEAM is administered, with some reports suggesting that some eligible children were being sidelined.

In response, DFID official Olympia Wereko-Brobby told this station in January that they had rigorous mechanisms in place to only ensure that only deserving children benefited.

"DFID has an interest in making sure the most vulnerable benefit from the programme. Our implementing partners Crown agents undertakes verification visits jointly with the Government of Zimbabwe to around 500 schools every term to follow up on where our money goes. This includes a review of the selection process," Wereko-Brobby said.

At least $73 million is required to cover this school year, but Treasury allocated only $15 million.

The country's critical sectors are all severely under-funded as corruption and mismanagement continue to bleed the economy and starve Treasury of proceeds from the country's vast mineral wealth.

With the protracted economic crisis showing no signs of abating, hundreds of company have closed, rendering millions of Zimbabweans jobless and vulnerable.

The threat of a humanitarian crisis has seen Western donors stepping forward with billions of dollars to deliver social services on behalf of the Zanu-PF government.

Last week, the US government announced a $100 million food relief programme to feed starving Zimbabweans over five years.

Also last week, the European Union gave the Zimbabwe government over $4 million for small businesses.

But even so, the hostile Mugabe administration won't stop blaming its western funders for its self-inflicted ills.

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