EDUCATION Minister David Coltart warned Thursday of “serious consequences” for some 400,000 orphans and disadvantaged children following the collapse of a school fees assistance programme which was backed by donors through UNICEF.
Development partners have supported the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) through the United Nations agency, UNICEF, since its inception in 2000, providing fees for hundreds of thousands of orphans and other poor children around the country.
However, Coltart admitted the programme faced collapse following the withdrawal of its main backer, the British Department for International Development (DFID).
“The move is going to have serious consequences on the lives of pupils under Beam,” Coltart said.
“What this means is Government will be forced to settle the difference but it’s common knowledge that Government does not have the resources.
“Last term, more than 400,000 pupils in primary education were supposed to benefit but not all of them got the assistance as funding from the donors was not enough.
“Government on the other hand has been struggling to cover the secondary school pupils.”
Coltart said DFID recently indicated they would not fund the scheme beginning next term, adding the government would have to find ways of ensuring that children on the programme are not thrown out of school.
“DFID has funded the programme for the past six months of this year and have indicated that they are not able to continue,” he said.
“This leaves us in the cold and much needs to be done because those children have to be in school. My ministry will be working hand in hand with Minister of Labour and Social Welfare (Paurina Mupariwa) to ensure that something has been done for the pupils.
“The permanent solution lies in working hard towards achieving our Millennium Development Goals. One of the goals in education is to achieve free education for all pupils in primary school. For this to be realised it calls for collective action.”