HARARE – The scarcity of free schooling in Zimbabwe is forcing thousands of destitute children to make a dangerous trek to South Africa to seek a free education.
But some penniless, in the heart of South Africa, end up taking risks to stay alive.
The wide Limpopo River separating Zimbabwe and South Africa is known for its unpredictable currents and crocodiles.
Aid workers say Zimbabwean children have joined the invisible train of children living on the streets to beg.
In South Africa, most of these children remain without documents despite that fact that some of them are about to sit for public examinations.
The Registrar General’s office maintains that all Zimbabweans have access to registration and these children deliberately left their documents back home.
The children are victims of syndicates led by unscrupulous Zimbabweans who promise them to benefit from the education grants being extended to all children by the South African government.
The fact that these children vanish during school holidays only to reappear towards opening of schools, is ample evidence to substantiate that.
But amid the search for free education, the children get immersed in social decadence, prostitution and crime.
The Daily News on Sunday understands social services departments in Zimbabwe and South Africa are working on a Memorandum Of Understanding to be signed by the two ministries that will detail the modus operandi, procedures and terms of reference in handling, tracing of families, repatriation and subsequent reunification of the children with their parents or guardians.
At a workshop held in Beitbridge, Thandi Chauke, a daycare practitioner in Musina revealed that the burgeoning number of Zimbabwean street children at Musina Taxi Rank, if offered shelter, still go back to the street to beg. The practitioner said some of them have been living on the streets for years.
“Musina taxi rank houses have around 15 children and some are now adults living in the streets who are involved in crimes such as house breaking and drug abuse,” Chauke said.
The Zimbabwean migrant children make up the majority of the pupils at Albert School. The school provides what they want most — an education similar to the one they began in Zimbabwe.
South African authorities say this school is popular because it offers the Cambridge International syllabus.
The border town of Musina is “not a nice place” for young Zimbabwean migrants, aid workers say New arrivals sleep rough on the streets in the border town, congregating on a notorious patch of waste ground.
Some mix with older teenagers, who drink alcohol and sniff glue.
At one time, Zimbabwe boasted of having one of the best education systems in Africa, but in 2008, amid hyperinflation and political violence, the country sank into chaos.
Teachers went unpaid, and school fees rocketed.
Most Zimbabwean families still value education, however, and believe sending children to South Africa to access free education is a sacrifice worth taking.