Fairness Moyana, Hwange Correspondent
AT least 27 pupils at Lukosi Secondary School in Hwange District are reported to have dropped out of school since the beginning of the year, six of the girls who have been married off, a local organisation has said.
Buwalo Matalikilo Trust (BMT), a local organisation operating in the district, said investigations have revealed that most of the drop-outs were girls and some were being married off by their parents.
Some are dropping out after parents fail to raise the required school fees, it was further said.
“Officially (from the 27) the girls who are now off the record of the school and confirmed to have been married off are six, four were in Form Four and two in Form Three. A further six are still in the (school) records and as the organisation and community leaders, we are trying to engage them to come back to school. However, the Ministry of (Primary and Secondary) Education has a cut-off date of de-registering a child when he or she doesn’t not come to school for a specific number of days,” said BMT executive director Mrs Anna Mandizha-Ncube.
She said the organisation has been fighting to ensure pupils remain in school but what was happening in the area was worrying.
“It was on one of the investigations that we heard that a certain young girl had been married off to one of the community members who also happens to be a Government extension worker. So in making those investigations between the community and the school we then also picked up that the school has actually lost in the course of the two terms close to 27 pupils,” said Mrs Mandizha-Ncube.
She said her organisation has since engaged the police through the Victim Friendly Unit and the local traditional leadership to facilitate the return of the girls to school.
“We would like to go through the processes of ensuring that these girls come back to school, we are engaging the local traditional leadership. We have engaged police because we believe that according to the Constitution, it is unlawful for a child below 18 years of age to be married off whether it’s a boy or girl. We are also yet to understand why the boys have dropped out but it’s linked to fees. But the school has an open policy to say come, let us engage and discuss on the child’s education to ensure the child remains at school. We are investigating the issue using community structures and young people we work with who are living in those communities to ensure that the right to education is adhered to by the local leadership,” said Mrs Mandizha-Ncube.
Although efforts to get a comment from the school head were fruitless, School Development Committee chairman Mr Masiye Ncube said most of the drop-outs were girls who would have fallen pregnant or were married off.
“Yes, it’s true, we have a problem of children who are dropping out of school but I’m not very sure with the numbers. However, I think they are in the region of between 10-15. What I can tell you is that what is worrying us is that most of them are girls. For boys the number is very low as compared to girls and they usually drop out mostly when school becomes tough but for girls most of them was because they would have fallen pregnant,” said Mr Ncube.
Hwange district schools inspector Mr Germination Moyo could neither confirm nor deny the development saying he was still to receive a report from the school on the issue before promising to investigate.
“I’m not aware of the issue as I have not yet received a report for the school concerning the matter. However, we will look into it as an office and get back to you,” he said.
Investigations by Sunday News in the area also revealed a worrying trend where a number of villagers said there was an increase in child marriages involving young girls.
In one case, narrated by villagers, a 12-year-old Grade 7 pupil from Lukosi Primary School is said to have dropped out of school after she was impregnated by her 20-year-old neighbour from Lubweludile village.
The girl’s father, a former special constabulary, reportedly did not make a report to the police but engaged the boys’ parents to demand compensation.
Other villagers blamed poverty as the root cause of the problem.
“Yes, such cases of children leaving school and opting to get married or because of pregnancy are common here. However, they are usually swept under the carpet as parents believe it is a great loss to report the offender to the police and fail to get compensation. So the norm here is that both parties discuss behind closed doors and agree to settle with cattle in the event they decide to marry off their daughter. This is all caused by poverty which is common in our area,” said a villager who requested not to be named.
BMT is now intensifying its work to ensure that efforts are made to protect children from early marriages by sensitising parents on the importance of education and guide against marrying off their daughters.