EDUCATION stakeholders have criticised the government for failing to provide social security nets to vulnerable children after it emerged that Treasury is yet to disburse Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam) funds to schools.
Beam is a programme that provides school fees, examination fees, levies and building assistance to needy primary and secondary education pupils. It is meant to cushion vulnerable children by ensuring they get an education, even when guardians cannot afford school fees.
The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) recently highlighted that poverty was driving pupils out of school.
“Among the population aged four to 24 years, 44.9% cited financial constraints as the main reason for leaving school,” the ZimStat report read.
“Marriage or pregnancy-related reasons were cited by 18.2%. About 52% of the males left school due to financial constraints, compared with 38.8% of females. Marriage or pregnancy-related reasons were cited more among females (31.7%) than males (3%). Financial constraints were the main reasons why persons aged four to 24 years left school for both rural (50.2%) and urban (36.7%) areas. This was followed by marriage or pregnancy-related reasons for both rural (19.8%) and urban areas (15.7%).”
In separate interviews, players in the education sector implored the government to speed up the disbursement of Beam funds to schools. They said schools were facing challenges in properly administering learning activities due to the outstanding funds.
Some schools are battling to buy stationery, among other requirements, as they are operating on shoestring budgets after Treasury failed to release the funds timeously.
The money should have been released through the Social Welfare department of the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare ministry led by Paul Mavima.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) secretary-general Robson Chere said the education system has been compromised by the non-payment.
‘‘It is actually disheartening and frustrating on our part that the government has failed to disburse the Beam funds towards schools. Most schools are now financially crippled,’’ he said.
‘‘Some schools are facing challenges to secure learning materials for their students. Learners are now disenfranchised in partaking in activities like sports that need financial resources.
The situation is serious to education and it is now a national crisis that we call upon the government to act upon as a matter of urgency.
‘‘Government must act and save the education sector. Teachers are frustrated over poor working conditions and the non-payment of Beam funds adds woes to both teachers and learners.
“There is no money to run these schools. The worst affected are those in some outlying rural and farming communities that the government has failed to improve in terms of infrastructure development,’’ said Chere.
Director of social welfare Tawanda Zimhunga did not answer calls to his mobile phone and, although he received text messages from The NewsHawks, he did not reply.
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu said most schools were still awaiting the payment of 2021 Beam fees and levies.
He revealed that the few schools which received the arrears payments got them after heavy tax due to inflation which left them in financial dire straits.
‘‘The non-payment is affecting the service delivery in public schools, which are now hit by shortage of infrastructure, that remain in a state of disrepair and poor Wash [water, sanitation and hygiene] facilities,’’ he added.
Ndlovu said the authorities have not bothered to communicate as to why the Beam money has not been disbursed.
‘‘Officially, we have not received any official word regarding the hiccups in payment that are outstanding,’’ he added.
Ndlovu noted that the Beam programme is part of an important strategy meant to ensure equitable access to education and must be administered transparently.
‘‘The Beam funding mechanisms must increase to include smart partnerships through multi-stakeholder contributions at grassroots levels. The over-reliance on tax funding by our government in a weak economy exposes the strategy to failure. Our position about Beam is to be upgraded into a financing model to promote free basic education for all citizens and improve on the budget allocation and co-ordination of education financing models in the country,’’ said Ndlovu.