Zimbabwean parents could face up to two years in jail if they fail to send their children to school.
In a bid to stem the rising school drop-out figures, the government has made education compulsory up to the age of 16.
An estimated 20% of children do not go to school in some parts of the country.
Meanwhile, high drop-out rate has been attributed to factors such as the poor state of the economy, pregnancy, early marriages, the long distances to schools and a lack of interest.
As a result of some parent’s inability to pay their wards tuition, makeshift schools have been sprouting up in homes and backyards, especially in poor areas of the capital.
These schools operate illegally since they are unregistered and they cost about $3 a month as compared to fees at government-run schools which must be paid upfront and ranges from $30 and $700 a year.
According to Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVac), in 2019 at least 60% of the children in primary school were sent home for failing to pay fees. The new law makes it an offence to expel children for non-payment of school fees or for becoming pregnant.
Prior to the new law, Zimbabwe‘s first leader Robert Mugabe who was a teacher himself had adopted commendable education policies after the country’s independence in 1980.
The school system he implemented saw Zimbabweans ranked among countries with the highest literacy rates in Africa. However, the education system began to crumble when free education ended in the 1990s.
The onus is now on parents as they have to ensure that their children go to school. If their children fail to attend school, they face up to two years in jail or a $260 fine if their children are found not to be attending classes if they can afford to pay it.