Marginalised children bear the brunt of socio-economic and political struggles

By Musa Makina

WITH nearly 2.5million failing to access birth certificates in the country, according to government statistics, many children in Matabeleland region fall into this bracket which potentially denies them access to education.

While birth registration is a basic human right, recent statistics contained in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development’s Zimbabwe (2016-2018) Interim Poverty Reduction strategy paper (I-PRSP) show that about 2,4 million children under the age of 17 years, do not have birth certificates.

This translates to about 39 percent of children in the country without essential documentation.

In terms of section 81(1)(c) of the Constitution, every child whether born in or outside Zimbabwe has a right to prompt issuance of a birth certificate.

However, for some children such as Ozias Kisambe (13) from Lusulu in Binga district, their rights to crucial documentation has been violated so much so that it has affected his future as he is not eligible to sit for his Grade 7 final examinations.

Having lost his mother- the only parent he knew, Ozias did not experience motherly love nor proper schooling.

Ozias’ predicament is an indicator that a lot still needs to be done by the media, the civic society and other stakeholders in safeguarding and protecting the rights of the children particularly the downtrodden.

Seasoned journalist and academic Dr Luyanduhlobo Makwati believes that while media has over the years tackled issues to deal with child protection and safeguarding the reporting has always been on paedophiles who abuse children.

“In that regard the entire life of a child has always been left unattended ranging from education to health. For example, some children have lost parents due to Covid-19 or HIV but currently their right to health is being violated because clinic charges are way above the reach of many,” Dr Makwati said.

He said the media should rethink and reposition its reporting strategy and place emphasis on the need to uphold rights and responsibilities of children.”

Habakkuk Trust, director Dumisani Nkomo whose organisation has interests in the protection of child rights in the rural areas said a lot still needed to be done.

 “Many civil society organisations that have a focus on children’s rights have really tried their best to advance and articulate issues concerning children.

“However, a whole lot needs to be done though in this respect especially in rural areas. It’s something that needs collaboration from government, the media and other stakeholders if a success story is to be written,” Nkomo said.

However, the poor quality of education in rural areas has left many children affected.

A 2019 report by Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) revealed that a disproportionately high number of schools — 87 — especially in rural areas, recorded zero percent pass rates in the Grade Seven exams, compared to 45 schools that had 100 percent pass rates.

However, such problems as a teacher to student ratio, poor facilities and lack of resources are the major reasons why rural areas continue to produce poor results.

In 2013, Internews Europe report established that there was lack of media-CSO cooperation due to high levels of mistrust between the media and child rights advocates.

A latest UNICEF report, notes that poverty has a child’s face in Zimbabwe with 6.3 million boys and girls in the country, 4.8 million living in poverty, and 1.6 million of those in extreme poverty.

However, while children have continued to bear the brunt of most challenges posed by the socio-economic and political situation in the country there are many general international instruments pertaining to the rights of the child that exist.

According to child rights expert Sphilisiwe Ncube there are two major documents that focus on children rights which include United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)-54 articles and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children (1991)-48 articles.

“Zimbabwe is a signatory to both treaties. The country has also ratified the conventions. These actions mean that government has committed itself to promote, protect and fulfill the rights of its children. It is therefore obligated to apply the principles,” she noted.

However, with the advent of the novel Covid-19 pandemic, the challenges faced by children have even doubled.

 “The economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic could push up to 86 million more children into household poverty by the end of 2020, an increase of 15 per cent.

 “The coronavirus pandemic has triggered an unprecedented socio-economic crisis that is draining resources for families all over the world,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director in a May 2020 report.

“The scale and depth of financial hardship among families threatens to roll back years of progress in reducing child poverty and to leave children deprived of essential services. Without concerted action, families barely getting by could be pushed into poverty, and the poorest families could face levels of deprivation that have not been seen for decades.”

While Ozias, like many children in marginalised areas might be going through tough times, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) to education and poverty indicate that the target is to by 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.

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