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Zimbabwean Schools, Once Best In Africa, Seen Sliding Further in 2009

The Zimbabwean government's announcement this week that public schools won't open until January 27 was only the latest bad news on the education front.

Authorities blamed a backlog in marking exams, but others pointed to a shortage of funds at the government and family level as well as an unresolved teacher strike.

School-age children spent most of 2008 out of the classroom due to a strike by teachers, a wave of post-election political violence and the general collapse of the economy.

For perspective on the crumbling education system, reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to Raymond Majongwe, general-secretary of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe and Elliot Maposhi, who represents the secondary school of Bikita, Masvingo province, within the Schools Development Association.

Majongwe said Zimbabwean schools operated under 20% of capacity in 2008, a situation he expects to worsen in 2009. The United Nations Children's Fund has estimated that fewer than 20% of Zimbabwean children are likely to attend school in the coming year.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...