Rights Group Holds Govt Liable For Chingwizi School Dropouts

Harare, October 12, 2015 – Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has blamed government slipups in the forced relocation of some Chingwizi villagers for causing massive dropouts of children from school.

Zadius Chitiga, a senior official in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education recently disclosed that more than 1 000 children of some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) had dropped out of school in Chingwizi Persons since the beginning of the year owing to starvation and long distances they had to tread to access education facilities.

Chitiga, who is the Masvingo provincial education director, attributed the massive dropouts in pupil population to hunger pangs coupled with the long distances they have to endure to reach schools.

But ZLHR laid the blame for the dropouts on the government which it accused of authoring the crisis in Chingwizi.

In a statement released on Friday, ZLHR, the country’s leading defence group charged that President Robert Mugabe’s administration had instigated the crisis in Chingwizi after forcibly displacing about 20 000 villagers who used to reside in Tokwe Mukorsi and moved them to arid land at Chingwizi transit camp due to massive floods, which critics and experts argued could have been avoided.

“It is unacceptable that a man-made crisis which the government authored in Chingwizi through coercing the IDPs into resettlement in violation of domestic and international obligations has resulted in such a regrettable situation. Undoubtedly, the majority of those who have fallen victim to the government’s failure to fulfill its obligation to assist and protect IDPs in Chingwizi are children from disadvantaged families and of which acquiring education can be the only way out of a life of extreme poverty,” ZLHR said in a statement seen by Radio VOP.

The human rights organisation which has been providing legal assistance to several villagers in Chingwizi said the alarming dropouts which were authored by the government undermines the principle of “the best interests of child”, a standard prescribed and emphasised in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, and in human rights instruments that Zimbabwe has voluntarily ratified.

“It is shocking that instead of playing a lead role in respecting and upholding the Constitution, the government has chosen to be the lead malefactor in violating the laws of Zimbabwe. Section 75 of the new Constitution emphasises the sanctity of the right to education and that the government must take measures to achieve the progressive realisation of this right. ZLHR believes that education is both a human right in itself and an indispensable means of realising other human rights. As an empowerment right, education is the primary vehicle by which economically and socially marginalised children and adults can lift themselves out of poverty and obtain the means to participate fully in their communities,” ZLHR said.

The Irene Petras-led ZLHR called on the government to immediately create essential conditions necessary to end the dropouts and urgently invest resources to facilitate access to education to the children in Chingwizi and other places where pupils are experiencing the same challenges.

Besides failing to access education facilities, the Chingwizi villagers are also struggling to secure health services while are reportedly succumbing to death owing to the fatalness of scorpion stings and an outbreak of diarrhea and malaria.

According to some of the villagers, several people including children are dying owing to poisonous scorpions stings. Apart from the scorpion bites, the IDPs also said people were dying from diseases such as malaria and diarrhoea.