Access to education remains a key challenge for orphans and other vulnerable children in Zimbabwe and is complicated by challenges within the education sector. According to the UNICEF Humanitarian Action Report 2008, Zimbabwe's educational system was, "characterized by low enrollment rates, declining attendance and completion rates, a low transition rate to secondary school and insufficient learning spaces, teachers, and learning materials." UNICEF also reports a continual decline in the percentages of children attending primary and secondary school from 2005 to date.

Education at a Glance 2003-2008
Primary school enrollment (male) 87%
Primary school enrollment (female) 88%
% of children who make it to the end of primary school 62% (admin data)
Secondary school enrollment (male) 38%
Secondary school enrollment (female) 36%

Source: UNICEF

The Ministry of Education, Sports, Art and Culture (MOESAC) is responsible for education in Zimbabwe. The formal system consists of elementary and primary schools. Outside of government-funded schools, mission schools are run by churches, and private schools are funded by parents.

In November 2009, Children First conducted a rapid assessment in 34 schools in Umzingwane district, Bulawayo, and found that school attendance was at less than 20%.

Further assessments conducted in February 2010 indicate that in 2009, schools were vandalized, and as a result, and teachers do not have access to adequate teaching tools and supplies. Despite a national policy that provides free and universal primary education for all students, under-funding within the system has forced schools to collect extra fees, known as "levies," to help cover the deficit.

These additional "levies" are charged in US dollars, placing pressure on families to acquire foreign currency or risk denying their children access to education. This is a particular problem for many orphans and vulnerable children.

The government of Zimbabwe has responded to the issue the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), which aims to provide assistance to 800,000 orphans and vulnerable children in primary school, with an emphasis on girls.

What is Children First doing to help?

Children First works through partners to provide block grants to get orphans and vulnerable children back into schools and provide alternative learning opportunities.

Bantwana School Integrated Program (BSIP)

Children proudly show off their teddy bears during the launch ceremony for Mavambo Trust.
Bantwana's School Integrated Program helping children in the community.


In March 2010, Children First introduced the Bantwana School Integrated Program (BSIP) model in more than 63 schools in Harare, greater Harare and Matabeleland South Province in Zimbabwe. BSIP, a school-based program, links the provision of education to other critical care and support interventions in order to provide holistic, community-based support to orphans and vulnerable children. BSIP uses schools as a service delivery point for care and support, and has been successfully tested, refined, and implemented by Bantwana/World Education Inc. in Swaziland since 2008.

School Block Grants

Children First began issuing school block grants during the period of national emergency in 2008/9 and ensured that orphans and vulnerable children received access to an education as well as critical services.

This short-term measure enabled children to get back into school while government and other stakeholders worked to reinvigorate the education sector. School block grants are provided in the form of non-monetary support, and are received by schools in exchange for waiver of all additional levies for certain identified students for a period of two terms. Block grants take the form of:

Children proudly show off their teddy bears during the launch ceremony for Mavambo Trust.
Susan Kajura, Children First's Chief of Party, handed out school materials during a distribution ceremony.

Materials Support: Schools are supplied with the materials and supplies they need to allow learning to take place, including school supplies, stationary, text books, and chalk.

Training of School Development Committees and Associations: Children First partners met with each school to develop a training strategy for school development committees on (i) managing the block grant effectively to avoid mid-project cash flow problems; (ii) maximum utilization and management of the procured materials; (iii) managing school institutional budgets; (iv) forecasting funding and resource mobilization; and (v) undertaking retention activities for teachers and children.



Alternative Education

In order to address the challenge of providing education to orphans and vulnerable students outside the formal school system, Children First began a pilot project in collaboration with Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) to develop an Alternative Access to Education Model based on remedial study packs developed with the Ministry of Education. The study packs provide a second chance educational opportunity to children who have fallen out of the formal school system. Second chance education involves the production of learning materials for out-of-school children to empower children to engage in self-directed learning designed to upgrade their academic abilities with assistance from a monitor who administrates the program within the community.

In July 2009, Children First conducted a survey of formal and informal organizations offering care and protection to orphans and vulnerable children in or around Harare. The primary goal of the survey was to identify the educational needs of children. The survey also tried to ascertain what local government programs are doing to support orphans and vulnerable children and determine the relevance and impact of educational support obtained from informal schools.

In response to a finding that 50% of grade 7 students are not transiting to Form 1, Children First piloted two out-of-school study groups in Mbare and Glen Norah to target 12-15 year old youth who are not in school and want to develop functional literacy and numeracy skills. Through use of the study packs, youth will be able to attain stage 4/grade 7 equivalent literacy levels. After, youth can continue into the formal Form 1, join a vocational training program, or set up an entrepreneurial activity.