Gold-rich Mudzi battles with child marriages, school drop-outs, STIs

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By Mashonaland East Correspondent

MARONDERA: The discovery of new gold deposits in the remote Mudzi district has brought with it fresh social challenges in the Mashonaland East area with the district recording an alarming rate in child marriages, pregnancies, child prostitution and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among the youths.

The district has also recorded alarming school drop-out levels in the province with a high number of girls in primary and secondary school falling pregnant while young males are abandoning class for the lucrative gold panning activities.

This sad scenario in Mudzi was exposed during a recent Mashonaland East family planning and adolescent sexual reproductive health (ASHR) meeting that was held in Marondera town.

It emerged some young people of school-going age in the district along the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border are engaging in unprotected sex.

According to the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) Mashonaland East monitoring and evaluation officer, David Murwira, most cases of school dropouts were recorded in rural districts with Mudzi, where new gold deposits have discovered, leading the pack.

Cash-loaded artisanal miners are engaging in sexual activities with minor girls who are then forced to drop out of school after failing pregnant while the boys prefer to pan for gold than attend school.

“It seems as if the modern girl child is well informed about her rights and what to do when faced with certain situations compared to her rural counterpart.

“As a result, stakeholder participation is vital to empower the rural girl not to drop out of school due to early marriage or pregnancy,” said Murwira.

A psychologist from the Ministry of Education blamed the high number of school dropouts that were going unreported especially in remote areas like Mudzi, to the current serious economic hardships being faced in the country.

Meanwhile, the education official also raised alarm over the increase in illicit drug misuse and child prostitution in public schools in Marondera.

“Drug abuse and prostitution in schools are a cause for concern; a school headmaster from a certain school here in Marondera recently wrote a letter to the provincial education director (PED) seeking permission to expel more than 20 pupils at his school who were in the habit of openly abusing drugs at the school.

“The drugs were supplied by well-known drug dealers from the school’s vicinity who are not arrested even if reported to the law enforcement agents,”she said.

The PED is, however, reported to have shot down the request by the headmaster to expel the students and the students continue to misuse drugs at the school.