Last week Government announced the Education Amendment Bill, whose most notable element was the provision of basic free education.
The amendment which will see primary and secondary education become free puts responsibility of funding basic education (primary and secondary) on the State.
“Section 5 (“Compulsory education”), of the principal Act is repealed and substituted with the following — “5. Compulsory education (1) Every child shall be entitled to basic State-funded education,” reads the Bill.
“Every child of school-going age shall be entitled to be enrolled at the primary or secondary school, as the case may be, nearest to the place where he or she is ordinarily resident, unless such primary or secondary school is fully enrolled,” the bill states.
The Education Amendment Bill that was announced recently is a blessing to every Zimbabwean as it creates equality and gives every child the right to education.
With the number of children dropping out of school especially in the country’s rural areas, the Bill Amendment came at the right time.
The move is welcome as it lessens the pressure on the pockets of many Zimbabweans leaving them with disposable income.
It also shows political commitment as evidenced by President Mnangagwa’s recent statements.
Speaking to Zanu-PF supporters attending a Meet the People Rally at Rutenga Business Centre on Saturday President Mnangagwa said no child must drop from school for failing to pay fees.
“We have a Bill that is coming. We want to go back to the old system when we got Independence where we said primary education should be free,” President Mnangagwa said.
His remarks also mean that Zimbabwe is serious about moving towards attaining Goal 4.1 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which the country is signatory to.
SDG 4.1 states that by 2030, all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education.
It is proven that free education can also help reduce early marriages and unwanted pregnancies, as many girls who are dropping out of school get married at an early age.
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza), a non-governmental organisation, claims over 80 percent of the school dropouts are girls.
So, the latest intervention by Government is set to solve the problem of access to young girls.
World Vision, a Christian aid agency, has reported that in one province alone 6000 children have quit school due to hunger or because they must help their families with household or farm work.
The introduction of free education will help more families to send their children to school and will enable Zimbabweans rich or poor to pursue their dreams.
Education is a right as according to articles 28 and 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
It is also a driver of fairness and creates empowerment, peaceful, united communities and reduces poverty.
Free education is highly beneficial especially to students who are intelligent and capable but cannot afford to pay fees.
For example, Malawi is one of the countries that offers free primary education.
The country is supported by organisations like USAid in collaborating with the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology. Donors provide 40 percent of public education expenditure.
In Zimbabwe free primary education can be funded through taxation. Government can aid this process by seeking donor support for education systems development.
This may include a combination of technical assistance and financial support.
The Command Agriculture programme can also help facilitate free education using money raised through exports of farm produce.
Schools and surrounding communities can also carry out agriculture projects to help fund the free education system.
This can help the Government and other donors who are already funding the educational system in Zimbabwe.
Of course, there will prophets of doom, there are others who struggle to appreciate anything Government does.
It is now time for us as united Zimbabweans to support these reforms that help Zimbabwe’s children to build their future.
Where there is unity there is victory! Together we can build the nation we want.