A Christian students' association in Zimbabwe has rebuked the country's power-sharing government for allowing the continuing collapse of the education sector in the southern African country.
"The cosmetic so-called inclusive government has failed the young people of Zimbabwe as evidenced by the state of the education system," the Student Christian Movement in Zimbabwe (SCMZ) said, in a statement to mark the Day of the African Child, commemorated on 16 June 2010.
This date is the anniversary of the killing of black South African pupils protesting inferior education, and the compulsory teaching of Afrikaans, in 1976.
"As SCMZ, we strongly believe that the collapse of the social services delivery system in Zimbabwe is directly linked to the human-created governance crisis," the students said. They added, "Unless this is resolved with expediency, the children of Zimbabwe will continue suffering, going to lecture rooms without lecturers, and getting into libraries without books."
Zimbabwe's three main political rivals formed a power-sharing government in February 2009 aimed at easing political tensions that followed a violent presidential run-off election, in which President Robert Mugabe was the sole candidate after the other contestant, Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out, citing violence against his supporters.
Members of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party say that Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, which has ruled since 1980, has not allowed the transfer of many levers of power, and that it holds on to the security apparatus, which prevents the operation of a free press.
Since its formation, Zimbabwe's power-sharing government has battled to help the country's battered economy revive following years of hyperinflation, which once peaked at 231 million per cent per annum.
Although schools and universities have reopened after being closed for nearly a year, when schoolteachers and lecturers went on strike over pay, the government has not been able to lure back most workers who left their jobs, or to stock school libraries.
In some cases, 15 pupils share one textbook, while thousands have dropped out of school and colleges because their parents could not afford the tuition fees.
The situation is worse in rural areas, where some schools have no classrooms, and pupils attend classes in the open or in makeshift structures.
"We remind the so-called government of national unity that education is everyone's right, and not a privilege for the affluent," the Student Christian Movement said.
Many Zimbabwean students have joined millions of their compatriots in exile.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]