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In Zimbabwe, Parents Fight Odds To Keep Kids In School

In Zimbabwe, parents are fighting the odds to keep their children in school. According to UNICEF, the UN children’s fund, Zimbabweans are facing an inflation rate of 254 percent, the world’s fourth highest rate of HIV/AIDS and rising unemployment. Nevertheless, parents are finding ways to ensure their children are educated.

James Elder is the UNICEF spokesman in Zimbabwe. From Harare, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the obstacles facing Zimbabweans.

“I mean you’re talking about everyday Zimbabweans,” he says, “so just to look at the most recent history. In the last month, the CPR, or the Consumer Price Index, or just the basic cost of living for a family, has risen by an official 45 percent. That’s, you know, your milk your bread, your eggs, your transport. And at the same time salaries tend not to move at the same rate as that and equally education costs have gone up a thousand percent. So, those two things alone, negating the fact that there is very troublesome unemployment rates and so on, those two things alone really impact upon regular families.”

UNICEF says it is supporting the Ministry of Education and its partners in launching a “Back to School” campaign. Mr. Elder says, “The campaign will seek to access two types of children. One is obviously the very public version of those being affected by Operation Murambatsvina, which is the government stated campaign of cleaning up the black market and various settlements, which had an enormous situation of evictions and demolitions. So, part of it will access those children who have been relocated to other parts of the country.”

As for the other group of children to be helped, the UNICEF spokesman says, “The other part of it will simply be to access those children who are perhaps the most difficult to reach always. Those children who have never gone to school. Zimbabwe has an enrollment rate for primary school of around or just above 90 percent. Then accessing those, that particular percentage that’s never made it, but never pushed that percentile up to a hundred percent. And obviously there’s an array of reasons why they don’t go to school.”

Among these are about one million orphans, who have lost parents to HIV/AIDS.