By Vusisizwe Mkhwananzi
Gwanda, March 17, 2016 – TEACHERS in the drought ravaged Matabeleland South province have resorted to using their own meagre resources to feed pupils who are fainting during lessons as they await government’s feeding scheme set to start in May.
Teachers who spoke to RadioVop this week said the feeding scheme was long overdue as the hunger situation is worsening by each day leaving them with no option but to assist.
“We at times have to prepare porridge for some of them as they would have spent days without eating; we do not have an option because they faint during lessons. In most cases, these pupils would have spent at least two days without food,” said a teacher in Gwanda South.
The number of people in need of food aid in the province has increased dramatically in the last two months.
Under the circumstances, parents whose children are often compelled to walk long distances to school on empty stomachs are now opting to keep them at home.
Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora recently announced government would start a feeding programme in May.
Gwanda Central Member of Parliament Edson Gumbo has challenged parents to be ready for the scheme.
“Parents should be ready when the food comes, they need to start setting up food committees to receive and prepare the food,” said Gumbo.
“Schools are a big investment and we don’t want to disturb that investment. We are known for our high literacy rate and we don’t want drought to inhibit our academic excellence.”
Matabeleland South provincial education director Tumisang Thabela says even those who are still able to attend school are finding it difficult to concentrate in class.
“In a number of situations, learners are failing to attend school or if they do come there is lack of concentration,” she said.
The number of people in need of food aid in the province has risen from 20 345 households to 33 061 in the past two months and 6 612 metric tonnes of grain is required up to May to avert starvation.
Pupils in rural Matabeleland have in the past performed dismally and hunger has been cited amongst the reasons for poor results.
Over the years, pupils have survived through Western aid but due to strained relations between Zimbabwe and the West, only few food handouts have trickled into the country.