Access to basic education is still a pipe dream

18 years later, access to basic education is still a pipe dream for many Hopley children

It is now common to see children of school-going age not going to school. It’s as if, as a country, we have normalised young people not going to school…” – Hopley resident

Hope for access to primary school education is fast diminishing for many Hopley farm residents in Harare. Here, education has ceased to be a right but is now a privilege. ZimRights Human Rights monitors have reported the lack of primary schools in the area as a major impediment towards the realisation of the right to education for children in need of primary schooling.

Hopley is an informal settlement that grew as part of government’s reactive Operation Garikayi – to settle people who had been displaced by Operation Murambatsvina in 2005. As a result, the area grew without proper planning as it was mainly for political pacification. Among the missing social amenities, are primary schools. The area only has one public primary school, Tariro Primary school, which services an area of more than 60 000 people. Tariro has an enrolment of around 1000 pupils. The remaining options are public schools in the neighbouring Glen Norah, Glen View, and Highfield suburbs, as well as “private” schools that are mushrooming around Hopley.

Image from Team Pachedu

A resident who spoke to ZimRights highlighted this concern, “Enrolling your child at Tariro is no mean feat, most parents who are serious about having their children go to school have to look for places at schools in other suburbs.” While this may seem like a viable alternative, the “nearby” schools are at least 5 km away and enrolment is not automatic. In addition, parents have to part with money for transport for their children to reach the intended schools.

As a result, parents are supposed to part with fares of between $30 to $50 per month. This is on top of tuition fees required for these students, which range from $20 to $100 per term. While the figures may seem low for some, it is worth mentioning that most folks in Hopley survive on less than a dollar a day. Due to financial constraints, many learners have to go to school on foot, traversing at least 10km per day to attend lessons.

Another alternative has been to enrol students at the private schools that have mushroomed around Hopley. However, most of these are just unregistered backyard schools whose teaching standards are unregulated and, often poor. In addition, most of these private schools are not allowed to administer exams because they are not registered. Students in these schools must, therefore, also walk to government schools to take exams. According to one ZimRights monitor, some of these private schools have one teacher simultaneously teaching multiple grades in the same room.

Sadly, a number of those who are not able to be enrolled or travel to neighbouring schools end up dropping out of school. The 2021 primary and secondary education statistics report produced by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education showed that 18916 children dropped out of primary school in 2021 alone. While these figures are believed to be largely conservative, the situation obtaining in Hopley is a contributor to this unacceptable number.

One sad dimension of the lack of access to education has been the involvement of minors in criminal and prostitution activities. Another resident commented, “it is now common to see children of school-going age not going to school. It’s as if, as a country, we have normalised young people not going to school. You will find both boys and girls abusing drugs and engaging in sex work.” 

Zimbabwe’s education system was one of the best in the 1980s and it ranked 4th in Africa in 2016 by the World Economic Forum Global Information Technology in terms of quality in science education and mathematics behind countries like Tunisia, Mauritius, and Ivory Coast. This is gradually falling as the country’s education system is deteriorating.  If the right to education continues to be violated the way it is being done in Hopley, Zimbabwe is set to miss the Sustainable Development Goals target 4.1 which seeks to ensure that, by 2030, all girls and boys complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education.

You can also listen to one resident lamenting the education situation in Hopley here