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Rights Group: Evictions Destroyed Education for Zimbabwe Children

  • Peta Thornycroft

Children sift through garbage at a dumpsite in Harare, Zimbabwe, on President Robert Mugabe's 87th birthday, February 21, 2011 (file photo)

Children sift through garbage at a dumpsite in Harare, Zimbabwe, on President Robert Mugabe's 87th birthday, February 21, 2011 (file photo)

Amnesty International says that hundreds of thousands of children were deprived of education after Zimbabwe's former ZANU-PF government smashed up their homes and their parents' businesses in 2005. Amnesty International said all the gains Zimbabwe had made in education were lost in the urban social upheaval that followed President Robert Mugabe’s ‘clean out the trash’ campaign, called "Murambatsvina" in the majority Shona language.

About two million urban Zimbabweans were shocked and traumatized in May 2005 when police moved on high density suburbs in Harare and second city Bulawayo and began knocking down houses and small businesses.

Mr. Mugabe said the campaign was aimed at cleaning up cities, which he said had become overcrowded with illegal residencies and buildings.

Most self-employed artisans, especially around Harare, were forced out of business when their preimses were knocked down.

After the campaign began, some people, including those in legal dwellings, knocked down their homes themselves to preserve the building materials.

Amnesty International said in a report Wednesday that it recently undertook follow-up research in suburbs on the outskirts of Harare that were severely affected by the campaign.

It said that in a large section of a poor suburb, Hatcliffe Extension, not far from Mr. Mugabe’s palatial private residence, every small house was flattened. People lived among the rubble protecting the remains of their small possessions.

Amnesty said in the same suburb, a school built by a humanitarian agency, and registered with the education ministry, had been knocked down. It said several schools in other settlements were forced to close.

The United Nations estimated about about two million people were affected by the 'Murambatsvina' campaign.

It said many children whose parents' homes were knocked down were forced to go and live in rural areas where they were not welcome. Many children whose parents lost their homes or businesses or both were unable to pay school fees.

Amnesty reports that political analysts say that "Murambatsvina" was designed to destabilize the then-opposition Movement for Democratic Change, as its support came mainly from urban areas at that time.

The MDC, which won elections in 2008, is now in an inclusive government with Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party.

Amnesty International recommended that the government and humanitarian agencies address what it calls the “systematic violations of the right to education of children and young people” stemming from the "Murambatsvina" campaign.

However, Zimbabwe’s Education Minister David Coltart says he has less than $2 a month to spend on each child’s education as the majority of his budget is spent on teachers’ salaries.

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