Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Reporter
GOVERNMENT has announced that parents and guardians including headmasters who allow learners to drop out of school due to financial constraints will be liable to prosecution as doing so is in violation of a standing policy.
In its 2021 Education Statistics Report, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education stated that the country has more than a million orphaned and vulnerable children of school going age.
Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima said measures have been put in place to cater for learners from underprivileged families.
He said Government is this year targeting to assist 1,5 million disadvantaged learners countrywide through its Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), which covers primary, second and tertiary education.
BEAM was set up in 2000 to provide school fees for disadvantaged pupils.
The minister said to date, that figure has not yet been surpassed hence there should not be any school drop-outs.
A total of 1,5 million pupils constitutes almost a quarter of the country’s 6 694 618 learners in primary and secondary education.
The increased number of BEAM beneficiaries from 400 000 in 2020 to 1,5 million since last year is part of the Government’s initiative of implementing its free education policy.
According to the same report, 69 660 pupils dropped out of school last year, the highest in four years. Of those, 50 744 were in secondary school while 18 916 were at primary level. A total of 5 822 of those learners dropped out school due to financial reasons.
In an interview yesterday, Prof Mavima said parents and guardians who face challenges in terms of accessing BEAM should approach school authorities.
“As Government we have so many interventions that we put in place to address the plight of orphaned and vulnerable children. BEAM is one of those and I should make it clear that any parent, guardian or even headmaster who allows any learner to drop out of school is liable to prosecution,” he said.
“This year we have a target of 1,5 million beneficiaries and we haven’t even reached that target for any learner to drop out of school. Headmasters have been trained on BEAM and are ready to attend to anyone in need of that facility because we want all our children to access education.”
Prof Mavima said there is an ongoing national awareness programme on BEAM targeting members of the public who are not aware of the programme.
“Those parents or guardians who find themselves in a financial dilemma should approach any of our schools and they will be assisted. I do not want to hear about any child not going to school this year or any other year since we are also introducing State-funded education effective 2023,” he said.
According to the Education Statistics Report, last year some of the orphaned and vulnerable children benefited from BEAM.
At ECD level, there are 120 714 orphans and vulnerable children, (60 977 males, 59 737 females) and they constitute 18,43 percent of ECD learners.
There are 608 419 orphaned and vulnerable children (304 241 males, 304 178 females) in primary schools. Orphaned and vulnerable children constitute 20,99 percent of primary school learners. At secondary school level, there are 289 847 orphaned and vulnerable children (140 589 males, 149 258 females). Orphaned and vulnerable children constitute 26,65 percent of secondary school learners (26,13 percent males, 27,15 percent females.
“In order to cushion the vulnerable, some of the OVCs get educational assistance through the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM). As of 2021, 53 159 ECD learners, 623 356 primary school learners and 182 477 secondary school learners were under BEAM,” read the report. — @thamamoe