According to a recent analysis by the Union of Education Norway and the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA), Zimbabwe has had a 20% spike in school dropouts since 2020, when schools were shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report comes after a related one from the American Embassy in 2021, which claimed that the COVID-19 pandemic caused an estimated 840,000 kids to stop attending since 2020.
Another recent study by the Family Aids Caring Trust Zimbabwe found that since the COVID-19 outbreak, about 20 000 girls had left school.
Dennis Sinyolo, senior co-ordinator and director of education at ZIMTA, told newsmen that the most recent analysis evaluated the effects of closing schools during the COVID-19 shutdown.
“We discovered that, indeed, there were so many problems with some being common knowledge that the closure of schools brought about a lot of dropouts. Some learners were affected to a point where it was very difficult for them to return to school when schools reopened,” Sinyolo said.
“Some lost their parents or guardians while others joined the informal trading sector and gold panning. The girl child, in particular, was the most affected. Some of them got married and became pregnant at a very young age. The situation was quite bad,” he said.
Pointing out that despite attempts to stop the dropout by introducing online learning amid more disparities, Sinyolo added:
“Unfortunately, online learning brought about more disparities among the learners, especially those in the rural areas and some from the urban areas were also affected. Those children from poorer families who could not afford modern technologies to undergo online learning missed lessons.”
Thembinkosi Tshabalala, one of the researchers, stated that the study’s findings included the fact that girls and children with impairments were particularly impacted.
She said: “There were huge gaps in terms of learning during the crisis, especially in rural areas. Girls have been affected by COVID-19 and were abused and thrown into child marriages. Unfortunately, this is a phenomenon we see across Africa and not only in Zimbabwe.
“Rural children and children with disabilities have been left behind. That is why it is vitally important for the Government of Zimbabwe to put in place a mechanism to ensure full recovery of the education sector.”
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