A Ward 22 Councillor in Bulilima says that shortages of secondary schools in the area has resulted in high school drop outs, a situation that leaves most learners unable to complete their Ordinary Level studies.
The dropouts have also led to early child marriages, where children in the remote areas of Khame are forced to marry for survival as most end school at Grade Seven.
School infrastructure in Matabeleland has remained poor for over 40 years, while the government is accused of failing to develop the schools.
In an interview with CITE, Ward 22 Councillor Philip Mpofu said his area only has one secondary school, a situation that brought several negative ripple effects.
“There are four villages in this whole ward – Khame, Tshemahale, Tematema and Khuphula but locals do not have a secondary school. Learners have to walk almost 10 kilometres everyday to and from, to access school,” he said.
Mpofu noted that lack of a secondary school in the ward was a setback to the children who eventually lost interest in learning.
“Walking such long distances every day is a burden to the children, which causes some to eventually drop out of high school between their first and second years. One would observe that by the time a class reaches its fourth year, only two learners manage to complete their O’level out of 10 children who would have enrolled in the beginning of the year,” the local leader said.
He added villagers were now trying to come together to construct a secondary school but their efforts were slowed down by the economic situation, having only manage to build one classroom.
“The primary schools are also far apart and during the rainy season, some children do not go to school.
The two primary schools in the area are Khame and Gonde and some walk about 1.5 kilometres to access school. Learners in Tematema Village learn at Gonde Primary school but they stay far away from the school. In Khuphula village, children have to cross Thekwane River before reaching the school. But during the rainy season, children from this ward do not go to school as the river would be flooded and as parents, we also don’t encourage them to cross,” Mpofu said.
One youth from the area, Revonia Ndlovu, said lack of education and shortage of schools had affected the development of youth as some had become criminals.
“Youth are now involved in criminal activities such as rape and murder, which is why we want to be involved in sustainable projects so that we can construct schools on our own and as a community,” she said.
A 17 year old, Percive Sebele, who dropped out of school while in Grade Seven claimed secondary education in the area was now viewed as elitist.
“Schools are very far and children who are able to access secondary education are those with parents who have money. Some parents look for accommodation at school or rent them in villages closer to schools so that they can attend classes’ everyday. But for those without money they cannot access secondary school and stay home,” she said.
Sebele said she could not continue with education, as her parents had no money to pay fees for her and noted that some children failed to go to school due to early pregnancies.
“Sometimes, others do not go to school due to peer pressure of seeing others at home,” said the teenager.