MWENEZI - Children’s access to appropriate education is a constitutional right which the government should honour.
Section 19 (1) of the national constitution precisely specify that in matters relating to children, the State ought to take measures to ensure that their best interests are taken good care.
However, at Turf Primary School, which is located some 85km away from the Masvingo-Beitbridge highway in Mwenezi district, the right to decent education does not exist.
The place is a microcosm of all that is wrong in this country; forgotten innocent pupils who are completely hopeless of a brighter owing to the depressingly bad conditions in which they find themselves.
Located in Ward 15 of remote Mwenezi West, Turf Primary School has for the past 17 years been conducting lessons under unimaginable conditions.
While government has become very good at shifting blame and giving excuses, one wonders how any responsible authority with the slightest sense of responsibility could shift blame on this one.
Since the schools’ inception in 2003, it has been operating without a single classroom block and has consistently recorded a zero percent pass rate in grade seven examinations as correctly reported by TellZim News in an earlier article about conditions at the school.
Many have pointed an accusing finger at the government for the misery at Turf Primary and other satellite schools established in the wake of the Land Reform Programme.
The school has not received any support from authorities ever since its establishment despite being the only one available for hundreds of children in the resettlement area.
The understaffed school is seriously under-staffed and the Teacher-in-Charge (TIC) Bernard Mahutse told TellZim News that only five teachers are available for the 368 pupils currently enrolled there.
During lessons many pupils sit on the ground under makeshift structures built of wooden poles and dagga with thatched roof.
There seems to be no plan or even concern on the part of government which enjoys taking all the credit for redistributing land to previously landless natives of the land but does not want to account for its neglect of the social needs of those resettled people.
In an interview, Ward 15 Cllr Edson Chauke blamed the Ministry of Lands for backtracking on pegging the school to make its site officially permanent.
“Conditions at Turf are tragic to the future of our children as some of them are conducting lessons in open spaces and they are always at the mercy of the weather. Owing to the bad conditions, teachers do not stay longer at the school and this is disadvantaging pupils,” said Chauke.
In a telephone interview with TellZim News, Mwenezi West legislator Priscilla Zindari-Moyo acknowledged the difficulties at Turf Primary School.
“I am not happy with condition at the school. I have been pushing for authorities to speedily address the issues there. I have mobilised some locals and there are structures that are already being worked on as we speak.
“After publication of the issue in the media recently, I approached the Ministry of Education and engaged with them on how best we can help. I am confident a solution will be found soon,” said Zindari-Moyo.
In this digital age, several primary schools across the country, especially those in urban areas, are establishing e-classrooms and computer laboratories where pupils access education materials digitally.
Given that there are several known primary school which are being funded by the government with regard to those programmes, it is ironic some schools like Turf Primary are not even being afforded the support to build mere classroom blocks and furniture.
“To us the blame game does not work but the truth of the matter is that government is failing us and perpetuating all these problems. If they were serious about addressing our plight, it we could be in a better situation by now.
“We no longer see the value of sending our school children to Turf as nothing is learnt there. We feel this is just wasting time and our hard earned money on fees and uniforms. Since the school’s inception, there is not even a single professional to emerge from that school. We are just grooming only cattle herds, child brides and domestic workers due to the school drop-out rate. Many are migrating to South Africa as illegal immigrants after dropping out of school,” said one parent.
Other parents said they appreciated the nobility of the Land Reform Programme but feel that government did not follow it up with the requisite development of social amenities like schools, hospitals and decent roads.
Most beneficiaries of the programme, therefore, are living in remote areas when those areas could now be reasonably developed after all these years.
A local war veteran said the neglect of the area was a disservice to the Land Reform Programme.
He said it was outrageous that politicians only visit the area in the run-up to elections looking for votes by making endless false promises.
“We are just looking forward to the government to urgently act on this crisis that has gone for too long. During this rainy season, pupils do not go to school because most of them conduct lessons siting on the ground under the trees.
“During elections, politicians visit the area for selfish reasons and never honour their promises afterwards,” said the war veteran.
Mwenezi district has a total of 172 schools 102 of which are such satellites as Bubi, Nyuni, Dembe, Muvhoko and Vezvi.