TWENTY-FOUR percent of pupils have not returned to school following the reopening of learning institutions due to early pregnancies, school boys venturing into artisanal mining and failure to pay fees by some parents and guardians. This comes at a time when the number of teachers that have reported for duty has increased to 87 percent from 80 percent earlier in the week. Schools reopened on August 30 for examination classes with the rest of pupils returning to class on Monday.
Learning institutions were closed in June after the country recorded a spike in Covid-19 that resulted in Government imposing a level four national lockdown to contain the rising numbers.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education was last month forced to amend the schools’ calendar, a development that will see pupils closing on December 17. The prolonged schools’ closure is said to have negatively affected pupils’ attendance. Responding to questions, Primary and Secondary Education communication and advocacy director Mr Taungana Ndoro said only 76 percent of learners have returned to school. Mr Taungana Ndoro He said the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is in the process of conducting back to school campaigns to lure learners who might have intentions of dropping out of school.
“So far learners’ attendance is at 76 percent and what we are doing we are trying to get pupils back to school. We are having community outreach programmes in all our districts throughout the country. We are encouraging all learners that have dropped out of school for any reason or another to come back to school. Remember the amendments that were made to the Education Act, allows even girls that have fallen pregnant to remain in school, even those that have given birth can also come back to school,” he said.
“We also have boys who are venturing into artisanal mining and other things. We want them to come back to school. As the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education we are encouraging every learner to come back to school and be in the school system.”
Mr Ndoro said during their ongoing outreach programme they observed that some citizens do not know the rights relating to children’s education. He said some parents are not sending children to school citing issues relating to school fees. “Even girls do not know that they are no longer expelled from school when they fall pregnant. We want to encourage all learners to return as this is important for future socio-economic development of the country,” he said.
Government has said no child should be left behind if the country is to attain an upper middle-income economy status by 2030. This year, Government is targeting to pay fees for 1,5 million through the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) scheme which targets vulnerable learners. Government also pays public examination fees for vulnerable learners.
Primary and Secondary Education Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chairperson Mrs Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said early pregnancies had seen some girls not returning to school.
“There are a lot of girls that fell pregnant during the schools’ closure and most of them do not know that the law allows them to continue with school. For boys most of them have joined gold panning, they have started working and have a problem thinking about going back to school and also some parents have struggled to raise school fees due to Covid-19 impact on livelihoods,” said Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
She said pupils that are facing challenges should dial the education Ministry’s toll-free number 317 to be assisted if they are facing any challenges.
Government in partnership with the private sector launched the toll-free number in a bid to get pupils’ concerns. “The basis of launching the toll free is to ensure that the ministry needs to know what is affecting learners.
If it is school fees in a public school, they (parents and guardians) can go to school and organise a way of paying fees. No child should be out of school on the basis that they don’t have money to pay fees. If they dial 317 and indicate that there is a teacher or school head that is denying them access to education that is illegal and a criminal offence. By dialling 317 the learners would be able to respond to all the issues that could prevent them from returning to school,” said Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga.