5000 Students Catch Up in Zimbabwe

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Melinda, a thirteen year old girl in seventh grade, could not hide her anguish after being told she failed her end of term test, barely two months before sitting for her final exam.

She thought about what happened to other students who had failed school in Kwekwe, Zimbabwe, and shivered.

Many girls who failed in 2008 could not continue to secondary school because "education was not their line," as their parents would say. As a result, students ended up in early marriages, some joined children living in the street, and others became child labourers.

"If nothing is done urgently, chances are, this stream will also not make it in the final exams as well," explains a teacher, who preferred to remain anonymous.

Melinda and her friends were struggling as a result of the economic and social mayhem which characterised Zimbabwe in 2008 leading to a teachers' strike from August 2008 to February 2009 over salaries. While the government considered teachers' grievances, the students never recovered the lost time during the strike.

The impact of this long break is evident in the zero pass rates recorded at schools such as Melinda's.

But she and her friends are now gearing up for their final grade seven exam with determination, thanks to Plan's support to 110 primary schools in eight rural districts to conduct holiday and weekend revision lessons for students to catch up on lost learning time. The program is reaching out to more than 5000 school children.

"Plan's intervention is coming at the right time, especially for us girls, as we hardly have enough time to study due to our multiple roles at home," says Melinda, speaking while surrounded by her friends who nodded in affirmation.

"We will utilise this opportunity to study hard and prove that given an equal opportunity, girls can also do it," she explains.

Plan's support package includes teaching and learning materials, stationery for children as well as incentives for teachers and supervisory staff.

Plan Zimbabwe's Country Learning Advisor, Manager Mhangami says the program was well received by the community with some calling for its expansion to secondary school level.

"We rolled out this intervention with few resources on a trial basis but the results from local assessments and responses from children, their families and teachers', are amazing. We will certainly consider their request to expand, if resources permit."

For more information, visit plancanada.

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