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Zimbabwe Education Gets $70-Million Boost

The international donor community has unveiled a $70-million Educational Transition Fund aimed at improving the quality of education for the country's children. Some of the money will also be used to pay school fees for orphans and other under privileged children.

Zimbabwe used to enjoy the highest literacy rate on the African continent, but the country's economic stagnation of the past decade has put an end to that. School buildings and furniture at most public schools are in a state of disrepair and learning materials, especially text books, are in short supply.

Speaking at the launch of the Education Transition Fund at Mutasa Primary School in Harare, Education, Sports and Culture Minister David Coltart said $50 million would go towards addressing the severe shortage of textbooks in schools.

"In many schools the only textbook is the one held by the teacher," said David Coltart. "In most government schools the ratio is no better that 1 to 15. Accordingly the first task of the education transition fund will be to arrange for the printing of literally millions of textbooks with the objective of delivering the same to our poorest and most needy schools during the first term of 2010 and thereafter."

The other $20 million would go towards revitalizing the government's Basic Education Assistance Module, which was set up to assist orphans and other under privileged children with school fees. Speaking at the launch of the fund, Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Paurina Mupariwa said $35 million is needed to support children in need per term.

But the textbook situation is just one of numerous challenges schools face. In the grounds of Mutasa Primary School VOA saw clusters of children sitting in the dirt being taught in the shade of trees.

Teacher Temptation Muringisi is putting her class of 39 through a mathematics lesson.

"We are under the tree because of a shortage of classrooms," said Temptation Muringisi. "We share the classroom with the grade fives so we spend half the day outside, then we go in the classroom and do our written work."

During the rainy season Muringisi said the children have to wait in the corridors for their turn in the classrooms. She added that no lessons are held in the corridors, as that would disturb the children in the classrooms.

The British, Australian, Swedish, New Zealand, Norwegian governments and the European Union are some of the partners who contributed to the Education Transition Fund, which will be administered by the United Nations' children's agency, UNICEF.