Singin’ the Blues on a Monday in Zimbabwe

Today is a Monday the first working day of a new week. For most of you that’s enough bad news right there; you have to get back to the business of getting down to serious business after a couple of days repose in the throes of hedonistic bliss. In Zimbabwe many are singing the blues this morning because today is the day before schools open for the second term. Today is the most frantic day of back to school rush.

Many Zimbabwean children go away to boarding school, today is the day they leave. Cities and towns across the whole country are teeming with school children pristinely dressed in their crisply ironed polyester uniforms. Then there are those trunks; the big black metal boxes into which boarders cram their whole life. Most borders have them complete with a “tricycle padlock.” For the lucky few, the student’s name and home address are neatly painted in white on the top. Everywhere you look you’ll see beleagured parents and students struggle to carry the heavy trunks to their next destinition until they finally get to school.

But even worse than the burden of lugging around a heavy trunk, education has become a burden and not a blessing for most Zimbabwean families. So today they are singing the blues.

These days used to be filled with a rare buzz everywhere; business were glad to welcome the back to school business brought by the students, parents everywhere were proudly doing all they could to catalyze their childrens’ rise to prosperity, and schoolkids themselves were obliviously excited as they bumped into each other and began to catch up on holiday happenings.

Not anymore. Today has been very gloomy day. School fees are running anywhere between 20 and 60 million dollars, new statistics chronicle the country’s poverty datum line now at 41 million, and civil servants who had been promised a shot in the arm in the form of salary increments are crying foul after realising that they’ve duped by the government. Most parents only take home a paltry 15-35 million a month. For many families the day has come upon them before they could pull enough resources to pay school fees.

With Zimbabwe’s “no fees, no education” policy, today is the day many parents are coming face to face that they have to pull switch on their childrens’ education because they can’t afford it. As their parents deal with this sombre reality, many school children are crushed with an overwhelming sense of helplessness and regret. No one ever wants to see their parents try something and fail.

With that education has become another of Zimbabwe’s aborted promises of indedependence. In 1980, ZANU-PF proclaimed free education for all and made primary education (Grades 1-7) mandatory. By the mid nineties almost everyone was completing high school, even children in the most remote parts of the country. All that is gone now, the promise of education is now being denied to Zimbabwe’s children.

What this means for the nation’s future, only time will tell. Today, we sing the blues and hustle to make something work.

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