COVID-19 and Access to Education, The Poor Further Marginalised

The COVID-19 pandemic affected the country’s school calendar and split the education system into two.

Children from well up families are getting a better education than children from low-income families. In Hwange, learners in primary and secondary levels are attending extra lessons to catch up with the syllabus, and these extra lessons are paid in forex.

A survey by this publication established that many children from low-income families cannot attend extra lessons as they cannot afford the needed United States dollars and South African Rand demanded by the teachers. Classes range from USD$10 to USD$20 per month depending on the level and subjects conducted mainly by government teachers.

Some parents revealed that they have no choice but to send their children to extra lessons because the radio lessons conducted by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary education are not effective, especially for the Hwange district.

“I have no choice; the radio lessons aren’t effective because the radio frequency is not strong, and one can sometimes locate the radio frequency using a car radio or a mobile phone radio,” says Lavender Masuku, whose daughter is doing extra lessons in Empumalanga Township.

“To be honest, the extra lessons are even more effective on my child. She has greatly improved because the teacher-learner ratio is smaller, making the learner’s understanding more effective,” she says.

However, the story is different for the learners who cannot afford the forex for lessons.

“The extra lesson charge is too much. I just encourage my children to read because I am failing to put food on the table. What more sourcing USD for extra lessons,” says David Mwembe, a parent of a form three Hwange learner.

“Online learning, on the other hand, is costly. I don’t even have the gadgets for the lessons, no money for data, that is why I just tell my children to study hard,” he says.

Tsitsi Masengure, a legal officer with the Justice for Children Trust, says education is a right for all children. Still, the pandemic has disrupted the traditional way of education, leaving some children vulnerable.

“Children are entitled to the right of education, but of late, many children from poor backgrounds cannot afford the extra dollar for an extra lesson. The government should see to it that all children are accessing education when they are out of school. We must see to it that the rights of a child are not infringed by economic and social factors,” says Advocate Masengure.

Regardless of costs, some fear that extra lessons can be mini super-spreaders of the novel coronavirus.

Advocate Masengure says despite the ban on extra lessons, teachers have never stopped, as witnessed by many reports.

Source: The Citizen Bulletin

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