Zimbabwe’s cash- strapped government is splashing close to $11 million on school fees for war veterans’ children.
This comes as government is failing to adequately fund the Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam) initiative, meant to assist orphaned and vulnerable children, those living with disabilities or in foster care under poor parents, street children, or children with chronically ill guardians or in child-headed households with their school fees.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said the money paid to war veterans’ children was contributing towards the country’s ballooning budget deficit, which is expected to reach $2,3 billion by the end of 2018.
“This has far reaching consequences in the economy in terms of government crowding out private sector lending. Additionally, continued payment of government obligations through an overdraft will also worsen the liquidity challenges in the economy,” he said in his 2019 pre-budget statement released last week.
According to official government figures, treasury pays over $6,4 million every term in school fees for 22 000 children of war veterans, while Beam that caters for over 200 000 students is not being funded.
University of Zimbabwe political analyst Eldered Masunungure said the move to pay school fees for war veterans’ children was a cheap political game as they are lot of disadvantaged children in the country who lack access to basic education.
“Beam has not been funded for years now but it’s a facility that caters for the underprivileged children and schools are suffering. When a segment of population is being given favourable treatment, then it raises suspicions of political interests,” he said.
Masunungure noted that the Zanu-PF led government wants to draw political advantages from such actions, adding that the move is not meant to advance the welfare of war veterans children but is merely politically motivated.
“The war veterans’ children are lucky that they are being privileged but it’s a drop in the ocean in relation to the needs of all the children at a national level, particularly those schools that have been catering for Beam-funded nutrition.
“You cannot segment people with similar needs differently,” he said.
National director of the Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children Taylor Nyanhete said government should lobby enough resources for children under Beam.
He, however, said the government also has an obligation to pay for the war veterans children.
“The paying of school fees for war veterans’ children is in the War Veterans Act, so they have to pay,” he said.
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