EU gives Zimbabwe $10m for textbooks
Harare – The European Union (EU) on Wednesday gave $10.6 million to Zimbabwe to buy textbooks for primary schools, promoting revival of an education sector which a cabinet minister said was in a dire state. Government schools closed at the height of the country’s economic and political crisis in 2008 re-opened last year after formation of a power-sharing administration between rivals President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. But pupils remain without books while classrooms in most rural schools are dilapidated and teachers threaten to boycott classes to press for higher pay. “The situation in schools remains dire. The physical fabric is in a shocking state and the basic necessities are missing,” Education Minister David Coltart said at a ceremony to receive the EU donation to a fund for revival of schools. The education trust fund was set up last September to raise $50 million to buy books for government primary schools. Zimbabwe’s education sector had, since independence in 1980, been hailed as the best on the African continent, but its quality has been compromised by a decade of economic collapse. In 1980 the government spent up to $6 every month per pupil, a figure which fell to $0.70 in 2009. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) head in Zimbabwe Peter Salama said half of the 3.2 million primary school pupils in the country dropped out before secondary education. He said UNICEF would next month start distributing exercise books and learning materials to more than 5,000 primary schools around the country and will sign contracts this week with local publishers to print 13 million textbooks. “This means that we will surpass our goal of getting a textbook to every two Zimbabwean children. Now every Zimbabwean child will receive a full set of textbooks,” Salama said.