That is so because these are bread and butter issues. For an empty belly is a tyrant and whenever it gets angry people start to run around even if solutions resemble an ever receding mirage.
However, a sudden downpour from the skies and inflows of much needed capital to turn the wheels of industry are wont to change these situations for the better for those affected.
That in the immediate past Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Senator David Coltart dropped a bombshell that might not have shaken some people but whose repercussions could turn back the clock many years in Zimbabwe’s social, economic and political development. The Minister, whose other portfolios include Sports, Arts and Culture, disclosed that 50 percent of girls completing primary school cannot proceed with education and so drop out for lack of money or because of parental preference for the education of the boy child.
But boys were also dropping off the educational train way before their intended destination, Minister Coltart said of the drop out rate for girls particularly in rural areas: “This is a worrying figure and we have to try by all means to effectively reduce it”.
The Minister is deadly right and instead of enjoying blissful nights as if everything is rosy on the educational front, all other Zimbabwean stakeholders should ponder on the whats and hows of helping the Government improve the lot of the girl child.
The phenomenal expansion of primary, secondary and university education upon which the
Zanu-PF Government embarked soon after independence in 1980 had brought a glimmer of hope for a bright, bolder new future for the girl child.
The drop out rate for girls is, indeed, worrying as it sadly points to a Zimbabwe gravitating back to medieval times where the old traditional society tied up the girl child to the kitchen while sending the boy child to school was viewed as an investment in the security of parents in their old age, while it was believed that an educated girl child would “enrich her husband’s family.” Yet were a countrywide survey to be conducted in Zimbabwe today to discover who between an educated married man and an educated woman supported their biological parents, better than the other, some parents impressed by the performance of women, might probably wish that their sons underwent sex change.
Education is the cutting edge for women’s liberation from the kitchen. The outworkings are tremendous, like the outworking of the liberation struggle that brought independence to this country — a value which has made some people so drunk with freedom that the judge-and-jury in their hearts, their conscience, has gone to sleep.
As a result, the persons in point, especially men in politics, have by consent, been turned into straws by means of which imperialism is intent on sucking out the freedom Zimbabweans enjoy along with their rich natural resources and our sovereignty.
But if you (yes you) think that the extravagant claim made by this pen about the transformative power of education is empty, you need only look at (need only look) the signature presence registered by Zimbabwean women in the noble profession of journalism, in academia, the diplomatic service and in the legislature among other plum jobs, with the crowning occupation of the second highest office in the land by Cde Joice Mujuru.
Incidentally, Cde Joice Mujuru, as freedom fighter Teurai Ropa, Oppah Muchinguri and their like-minded peers decided on their own volition fired by an irresistible quest for independence and freedom to break with a gender-biased past. They abandoned their education or whatever confined them to the kitchen and joined the boy child in the bush to wage war on the racist, white minority regime of Ian Smith, culminating with the uhuru enjoyed today even by those who slept through the revolution of the liberated people of this country.
These determined young women had to forsake whatever they were doing to take part in the armed struggle with some losing their lives in the process so that no girl in a free Zimbabwe should ever drop out of school again.
The report that the girl child is again forced out of school by crushing poverty in the rural areas and by parents preferring to educate the boy child instead is certainly a tragic irony, that calls for what journalists might describe as reversing the reversed bromide of primitive treatment of the girl child by the defunct traditional society.
If truth be told, there is no way Zimbabwe can hope to transcend its status as an underdeveloped country with men alone at the wheel while women are in the shed. Such a scenario is at best wishful thinking and at worst akin to one legged man embarking on a journey of economic and social emancipation. It boggles the mind to think how long and how far a person with one leg can hop, hop, hop to reach the desired milestone.
It is, however, not too late to reverse that sorry drop out trend for the girl child and the Government has to be commended for introducing the campaign for female education programme under which $19 million will be initially be spent on 2 400 disadvantaged secondary school girls.
Minister Coltart said more money was needed to benefit more disadvantage people. Here is a call, therefore, for all other stakeholders financially to rally to the support of the education ministry by throwing a lifeline to the girl child out there in the country whose future now looks bleak.
Boys who find themselves abandoning school at an early age stand a better chance of navigating their future on account of an inbuilt hunting instinct in them while the girls who find themselves in the cold are wont to get married at a young age so that these babies will give birth to babies or might be compelled by circumstances to become anti-social by joining the world’s oldest profession.
What vision the business fraternity and non governmental organisations have for the future of this country and for their own successes will be demonstrated by their responses to the need by the Ministry of Education for more money with which to lay a strong foundation for braver new future for the girl child.
In particular, women in the forefront of the gender-equality campaign should be seen to be torch bearers not only by the lip; they should fundraise to add to the money needed for educating the girl child.