Women in Zimbabwe have called on the government to provide free education in all public primary schools around the country. The women, numbering over 2,000, took to the streets of Bulawayo to press for their demands.
Thomson Reuters reports that Thursday’s protest was organised by the Women of Zimbabwe Arise Movement (WOZA). Its coordinator, Jennie Williams, led the group of protesting women to present a petition to the Resident Minister, Eunice Sandi Moyo, ahead of the scheduled resumption of public schools early next month.
Many of the protesting women carried banners that read #BoycottSchoolFees as they sang and marched to the Mhlahlandlela government complex. However, Zimbabwean riot police denied the women entrance into the Minister’s office.
The Zimbabwean government is responsible for public education around the country, but pupils are charged a small fee for tuition. Last term, thousands of public school pupils were thrown out of classes because of unpaid tuition fees. A report released in July by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Committee showed that up to 15 percent of school children in rural areas were out of school because they cannot afford tuition fees. A UNICEF report also shows that school attendance figures have fallen.
Williams says she sees no reason why public schools should demand for tuition fees, and she believes the action of the government is indefensible. “We want government to honor its constitutional obligation to provide education for all,” she declared.
The Zimbabwean economy has tottered on the brink of a collapse in recent years due to the combination of poor harvests, falling commodity prices, poor leadership, and a barrage of international sanctions against the government of President Robert Mugabe. Inflation and unemployment are at an all-time high, and labour unions estimate that up to 90 percent of Zimbabwe’s 14 million people are out of jobs while the few civil servants who do have jobs have not been paid for several months.