By Samantha Chigogo
OVER 4 500 minors dropped out of school countrywide this year because of early marriage and Government is weighing the possibility of strengthening law enforcement to contain the challenge. In an interview with The Herald, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Dr Lazarus Dokora said the fight against child marriages was far from over. “In secondary schools, 3 650 females and 251 males dropped out of school because of early marriages nationwide and the numbers seem to be on the increase,” he said.
“At primary school level, we lost 305 females and 13 male children to early marriage set-ups this year.” He said the statistics prove that young boys were also largely involved in early marriages.
Dr Dokora said it was important to intensify awareness campaigns against child marriages. “We need visibility to the girl child and make them do away with ideas of marriage until they turn 18 years,” he said.
“We are going in full-bloodied campaigns within our school systems to discourage children, their parents and guardians from encouraging early marriages.” Dr Dokora urged parents to prioritise early enrolment for children as a way of addressing the problem of early marriages.
“We are also facing challenges with children who get late enrolment into primary and secondary schools as this also leads into the growing numbers of school drop-outs opting for marriage,” he said.
Minister Dokora said efforts to better the country’s education system would continue. “School feeding scheme is a key resource, which we will continue with to ensure that all schools nationwide benefit as we move to promote better learning conditions for our children,” he said.
“However, some schools did not have water hence crippling our efforts, but I am glad to say that 11 schools that did not have water are being taken care of to ensure the food scheme is healthily managed.”
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Chief of Education in Zimbabwe Mr Peter de Vries urged Government to remain focused in the fight against early marriages. “We support Government’s efforts in prioritising the education sector in Zimbabwe,” he said.
“I understand the education ministry is where more money is being invested and that will help the fight against early marriages as we move to ensure that all children are enrolled in school not marriage.” Early this year, the Constitutional Court ruled that no child under the age of 18 would enter a valid marriage union.