By Charlene Tariro Murima, VI Form
Education in Underfunded Zimbabwean Societies
Editor’s Note: This project was made possible with the support of the Class of 1968 V Form Fellowship. At their 25th reunion, the Class of 1968 created a fund to provide grants to V Form students for independent study during the school year or, more commonly, during the summer between V and VI Forms. Their intent in establishing this fund was to reward independent thinking, ingenuity, and planning and to encourage the student exploring non-traditional fields of inquiry or using non-traditional methods of investigation.
Student-Submitted Note: To encourage a more globally-minded perspective and understanding of diverse educational practices, I received a grant through The Class of 1968 V Form Fellowship and traveled back to Zimbabwe during the summer of 2022. I conducted anonymous and in-person interviews. In these interviews were students and teachers informing me more about the country’s education system.
Student-Submitted Disclaimer: This article contains mentions of abortion and sexual abuse.
Over the summer of 2022, I traveled back to Zimbabwe to work on a documentary called Education in underfunded towns of Zimbabwe such as Dzivaresekwa, Concession, Mazowe, and Kuwadzana with the goal to educate my peers and schoolmates about some of the challenges students in Zimbabwe face. To make this study possible, I received a grant from the St. Mark’s Class of 1968 V Form Fellowship. I was able to visit many schools that lacked government funding or had limited resources, and I conducted anonymous and in-person interviews with students and teachers. I learned that the education system in Zimbabwe encompasses 7 years of primary school and 6 years of secondary school. It runs from January to December. The school year is a total of 3 terms with a one-month break, totaling 40 weeks per year. I asked a few students in person and anonymously online what they thought about the country’s education system and what they hope to change. Recurring themes of sparse resources and perpetual sexual abuse from those meant to educate them surfaced.
During one of the anonymous interviews, here is what one student had to say about education in Zimbabwe: “Girl!!! Wait till you get to the numerous girls that are rushed to hospital and even die after having failed abortions in bathrooms and rooms because abortion is illegal in this country – it’s a badly kept secret and you hear especially guys laughing about it saying it’s a norm for teachers to sleep with students and force them to abort. Free and higher education failing so many for real.” Another student also wrote “Please please don’t reveal my identity, I am doing the sixth form and I have seen a lot so far. People are dating faculty members and that is ok with them. It is like a normal lifestyle to have an older male adult that sponsors you in return for sex. It is so worrying what people must do to obtain an education that should have been free.”
As someone who advocates for and believes in the right to education, hearing all this broke my heart, but I had started this journey and it was only right that I finish it. I visited schools that lacked many resources, but would not let me interview them, as they were afraid I would shame them for not providing adequate resources or protecting their students.
In 1980, Robert Mugabe, the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, declared education a basic human right. The goal was to achieve universal education for all students. Unfortunately, this has not been achieved since Zimbabwe faces dilapidated school infrastructure, lack of access to educational materials, and scarcity of teachers due to protest action. Students have to undergo harsh conditions to obtain what is rightfully theirs. These include walking extremely long distances to get to school, waking up as early as 3:30 am, and if lucky 4:30 am, in order to get to school on time. Most schools do not have enough desks or chairs for students to sit on, which means that they take turns coming to school. Some students start school at 6:30 am and finish at 12:30 to allow for the afternoon sessions to take place. The afternoon scholars begin at 12:45 and end at 5:30 pm, which means that they have to walk back home in the dark as their school does not provide any transportation. This is extremely dangerous as crimes in Zimbabwe are rising at an alarming rate due to the economic system that is also failing.
Clearly, Zimbabwe is a country that makes it difficult for children to achieve their right to education. It is a country that claims to offer public education for all, and at the same time expects students to cover the cost of tuition and other basic school supplies needed. It is a nation so corrupt that students have to engage in sexual activities with adults meant to educate them as well as others in order to get a free education. What is the point of public education if it is not accessible?
Charlene Tariro Murima is a VI form international student from Zimbabwe. Charlene loves Biology, Psychology, and French. Charlene is interested in learning more about the human body hopes to study Human Health and Psychology in college.