Poverty Hinders Access To Education For Rural Learners

A recent report shows that a cycle of poverty threatens to continue in rural areas where young children are forced to drop out of school early.

Itumeleng Ncube from the Ntalale area in Gwanda South dropped out of school in 2018 after completing her Grade Seven. Her grandmother, Sanele Moyo, a subsistence farmer could not send her to school after she failed to raise the money for her granddaughter’s tuition.

Moyo says she has single-handedly put her granddaughter through primary education but she has now reached her limit.

“Her mother (who is my daughter) passed away while she was four years old and I don’t know where her father is. I have taken care of my granddaughter for the past 11 years and it has been difficult. I managed to put her through primary education but she didn’t collect her results because of school fees arrears. It was my wish for my granddaughter to go further with her studies but at the moment I’m not able to pay for her fees.” Sanele Moyo, grandmother to Itumeleng Ncube

Moyo used to sell some of her farm produce and vegetables to raise money for her granddaughter’s fees. Poor harvests coupled with price hikes have been a setback for her trade.

Attempts to enrol Itumelang under the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) programme, a government initiative that targets valuable students were fruitless with authorities turning her down because she is still ‘able-bodied’, and the father of her granddaughter is “alive.”

Milica Nyathi who is a widow from the Sikhathini area in Bulilima has four children of school going age but only two are in school. Nyathi says not all able-bodied people can afford to send their children to school due to poverty. She has been unable to benefit from other programmes that offer financial assistance for underprivileged children in the district.

Poverty continues to have a severe impact on the attainment of education causing several learners to drop out of school.

According to the Education Sector Analysis Report for 2019, chronic poverty (prolonged poverty) now affects nearly three-quarters of the population in the country and affects the rural areas the most. The report cites that 34 per cent of the population is regarded as extremely poor.

Furthermore, the report states that children from the poorest households are disadvantaged in terms of school attendance and the level of schooling attended. Only a third of children from the poorest households of lower secondary age are attending secondary school. Only about half of children from the poorest households make the transition to secondary school compared with nine out of ten children from the richest quintile.

“Failing to complete each of these stages progressively restricts the choices in the life of the learners and while family wealth may compensate for those from rich households no such opportunities exist for the poor,” reads the report.

Chief Bango, of Mangwe District, says failure to attend school “extends the cycle of poverty in some families.” He believes the government should put in place strategies to ensure that all children can attend school.

“Some children fail to complete Grade Seven which destroys their future. Underprivileged children need to be assisted so that they can have an equal opportunity to access education. Some children have the potential and can even do well if awarded the opportunity,” he says.

However, Matabeleland South provincial social welfare officer, Criswell Nyakudya says many programs are in place to fund education for underprivileged children such as the BEAM programme. He says the province has about 20 000 children under the BEAM programme.

Nyakudya says several Non-Governmental Organisations are complementing government efforts through payment of fees for underprivileged children. The beneficiaries of these programmes are selected through a consultative process that involves community leaders.

“These programmes can however not cover everyone,” he admits. “Plans are underway to increase the number of beneficiaries under the BEAM programme. We also hope that we can have more partners coming in place and existing ones scaling up their operations.

Source: The Citizen Bulletin

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