By Cosmas Sunguro
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
Education is said to be the ‘key to
success’. These wise words would only be meaningful only if the responsible
authorities knew that it unlocks and awakens the community. Education is like
light put in the dark room. No doubt that it plays a pivotal role in the socio
development of an area. A lot is expected when an area is endowed with precious
minerals like diamonds.
Upon the discovery of diamonds in Chiadzwa around 2006, there was a diamond rush in the area. In no time the area was flooded by artisanal miners, buyers of diamond and vendors. The service delivery was overwhelmed by this sudden influx. Suddenly Chiadzwa community was the talk of the town. The then minister of Mines Honourable Obert Mpofu ‘predicted that the diamond discovered amounted to 25% of diamond reserves in the world. There was no scientific exploration done to prove the approximate quantities of this precious mineral. Education officials and pupils in Chiazdwa and surrounding areas were not left in this diamond rush as it was said to be the easiest way to make quick bucks.
This paper seeks to highlight the impacts of diamond mining on education in Chiadzwa upon discovery of diamonds till to date. It will further delve on the contribution of diamonds to the education sector if any during this period of mining. Emphasis is also put on other players in the education sector in Manicaland like Mutare Rural District Council (MRDC) and government through Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM). The study focused on seven schools said to be in red zone of diamond mining of Chiadzwa. A follow up was also done to the relocated families of Arda Transau Relocation Scheme in Odzi Area in Mutare. There is only one secondary school and two primary schools. That were either built or renovated by diamond companies after relocation. Although there are some more surrounding schools in Marange, the above are said to be directly affected by mining activities being undertaken by mining companies. The period covered is from 2010 to2019.
There were interviews done with some school officials, teachers, school development committees (SDCs), parents, pupils and other stakeholders. There was also a focus group discussion done in Chiadzwa to come up with this information. Documentary evidence was also done to verify and buttress the assertions. The schools under study included Chiadzwa primary school, Gandauta secondary school, Betera School, Chingome primary school, Banda primary school, Tonhorai primary school, Wellington primary school, Chirasiksa primaryschool and Arda secondary school, Chipindirwe primary school and Mukwada primary school. However, the identity of officials remains protected for professional reasons.
Mining being destructive in nature has not spared the education sector in Chiadzwa. However, it will be unjustified to only view the impacts throughout this period covered as negative, some positives realised along the way were recorded.
Most school buildings in Chiadzwa are
very old and dilapidated. Some of them resemble neglect for some time now. One
has to visit Chiadzwa primary school to have an appreciation of this. Some of
the buildings have wide cracks that one can see sun rays through them. This is
in sharp contrast with the secondary school Gandauta that is adjacent to it
which was built post independence. Of late this secondary school has been receiving
assistance from Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamonds Company (ZCDC) to paint and
Mining has not been able to change the face of most school save for Wellington primary school, Chirasika primary school, Arda secondary school, Mukwada primary school and Banda primary school. Some schools like Tonhorai primary school have not benefitted despite a written commitment from the company to assist with roofing sheets that were blown away by violent storms. The block had been constructed with support from PLAN International.
There is generally a shortage of teachers’ living quarters. Many teachers resort to sharing rooms which in turn strips them off their privacy and decency. Teachers from Wellington primary school for instance, are commuting from Mutare town everyday which is plus 30 kilometers from school a single journey. They are using unreliable public taxis. Most schools lack perimeter fencing. Those that have it for example Chiadzwa primary school and Gandauta School had it stripped by some unruly community members or artisanal miners. In Chiadzwa primary school they left open pits after scrounging for alluvial diamonds. These pits are risky to pupils if they happen to fall in them. It seems it’s easy for company guards to provide some security guards for the school premises since they are located in the mining concession.
There is also a challenge of clean and safe water at most schools. Some have to walk long distances in search of the liquid or they assign pupils to fetch for it on their behalf. Previously, teachers were given accommodation at their respective schools. A good example is at former Chirasika primary school where they were relocated from. Some schoolteachers’ accommodation has cracks in Arda Transau and the mining company ZCDC has not done anything to address that. There is challenge of electricity in teachers’ living quarters.
2. STATIONERY AND OTHER LEARNING MATERIAL.
Stationery is a great challenge in most schools. In fact, not even a single school of the ten interviewed confessed to having enough textbooks for its learners. The number of books per pupil has declined to absolute absence of books in some subjects. This has been attributed to the new curriculum rendering most books being redundant. Most schools lack funds to purchase the books.
In some schools they were given computers during the Presidential program during the 2013 election campaigns. They are not able to use them due to absence of electricity and recommended computer laboratories. Gandauta secondary school has a state-of-the-art computer laboratory that was renovated by ZCDC and they now have a computer teacher. Previous companies like Mbada and Marange Resources used to donate stationery to the schools and thus lessening the burden on school authorities and parents. Since consolidation of mines in 2016 they had been no effort from diamond companies to assist the schools. Majority of parents cannot afford to purchase recommended textbooks for the new syllabus. Their sources of income like farming land and fishing was disturbed by mining activities. There is a correlation between endowment in school resource and pass rates.
3. MORALE OF TEACHERS AND NON-TEACHING STAFF.
Morale is at its lowest ebb in the
schools in Chiadzwa according to staff interviewed. This is due to cash
shortage and poor remuneration. Most of the staff are earning less than $40usd
per month. According to one primary school teacher interviewed, ‘if these
(salary) are not peanuts, one wonders what they are considering the Zimbabwe
economy experiencing hyper inflation’. This salary is not enough to pull them
throughout the whole month. Previously their salaries were pegged at around
$400 USD per month.To supplement this, some teachers are resorting to artisanal
mining or diamond buying thereby resulting in absenteeism, erratic attendance
and under performance. One senior teacher argued that, ‘they no longer resemble
their original status of being role models in the society due to meager
salaries’. It was also revealed that the pupil to teacher ratio is 1:55 as
opposed to 1:40 accepted in primary schools. This is far away from the desired
ratio of 1:28 world over.
The cost of living of teachers in diamond mining areas is very expensive compared to their counterparts in other areas. This is due to the use of the US dollar currency whenever carrying out financial transactions in Chiadzwa yet teachers are getting paid in the local Zimbabwean currency. All these, negatively affect the quality of education delivered to the pupils.
4. BASIC EDUCATION ASSISTANCE MODULE (BEAM).
BEAM is targeted at poor and
vulnerable children in primary and secondary schools. In effect BEAM has been
perennially underfunded in real terms, making it difficult for children who are
poor and marginalized to access education. According to a NANGO’s publication
‘Social Development Plan’, “what is worse is that the focus of BEAM on tuition
is misdirected because tuition is the smallest component of the child’s school
cost (25%)”. In a hyper inflationary environment in which children, learn,
books, uniforms and levies for school sanitation and other necessities comprise
the highest costs in education.
In Chiadzwa and Arda Transau area some selected few pupils are receiving the BEAM. This has never been enough. The number of pupils who deserve to be assisted through BEAM is ever rising. Instead of uplifting the standards of living for locals due to presence of diamonds, most parents are wallowing in abject poverty. The MRDC and the company ZCDC are not doing much for the schools. In fact it’s a question of blame game where each part blames another for not remitting something to the national fiscus. Just like as once highlighted in the Chindori Chininga Report that diamond companies are not remitting much to the national treasury. The previous minister of Finance Hon Tendai Biti once complained about the non remittance despite diamond production figures rising between 2010 and 2012.
5. PASS RATE OF PUPILS.
According to the observation we did during this study, there is empirical evidence that diamond mining affected most pupils who were learning in the so-called “red zone”. This was hugely attributed to the involvement of pupils and teaching staff in search for the elusive diamond. Most pupils were overwhelmed by the green back during the initial years upon discovery of diamonds. The attendance at schools was reduced and erratic. This affected the pass rate of pupils when they sat for final public examinations. At one of the schools they registered less than 5% pass rate in two consecutive years. Before mining operations started it was registering average pass rates. Of late the figures have been rising steadily to an average of 40% pass rate. These figures are way too behind of other surrounding schools scoring as much as above 70% pass rate. There are some outstanding cases of schools like Wellington primary that once surpassed the 80% pass rate mark. At Chirasika primary for instance in 2018, the pass rate was 57.95% despite its perennial challenges.In comparison to pass rate between boys and girls, the later tends to perform better during the primary stage. This tends to change during secondary days where some girls are affected by early pregnancies, lack of fees and unsatisfactory school expectations. Girls have a high dropout rate at times attributed to miners predating on younger girls despite some of them being family men. Other girls are said to be victims of sexually transmitted diseases due to emerging prostitution in business centers like Mashukashuka and Tenda. The interviewees cited the presence of miners as one of the reasons behind the fall in pass rates in girls. Mining disturbed some schools such that in some areas like Jese, pupils are walking long distances of up to 20 kilometers (to and from) to Hotsprings secondary school. The companies cannot provide transport for these affected pupils yet their existence is the reasons behind these pupils’ challenges.
6. SCHOOL BUDGETS.
It was of great importance to focus on the school budget as this is also a determinant of pass rate in Chiadzwa. In fact most of the reasons behind performance rate rest upon on whether school budgets are being met or not. To a certain extent the availability of funds is crucial to meet their financial obligations. The study revealed that schools are operating on a budget deficit as most parents are not able to pay fees on time. At one school the SDC declared that they only had $3 USD in their bank account during their Annual General Meeting of 2018 yet they were expected to last the whole term. A worrying scenario was that three quarters of the pupils had not paid school fees. Some grade seven pupils were failing to pay examination fees for their final public exams. Among those who were failing to pay for the school fees were children of former employees who had been affected by consolidation of mine and were still waiting for their salary arrears.
Economic meltdown has not spared mining workers who claim they are failing to access their cash at banks or they are owed by mining companies their outstanding salaries. The average school fees at primary school were $20 while for the secondary school was $60 Zimbabwean dollars per term. This excludes other commitments like stationery and uniforms. At one primary school 120 parents owed the school $2500. The school is enrolling the highest figure of 1427 pupils. The school is struggling to have learning blocks amidst plenty of gold and diamonds.
It was noted that at one of the secondary schools understudy, FACT is sponsoring 48 pupils, Capernaum 2pupils and Simukai 2 pupils. Unverified figures for BEAM was said to be around 40 pupils. There is no talk of mining companies contributing towards welfare or tuition of kids at school. Only at Gandauta secondary school where there was talk of one girl being sponsored by ZCDC.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS.
Having gone through what is transpiring in educational sector in Chiadzwa with the coming of mining, below are some of the recommendations and conclusions.
1. NEW CURICULUM.
Enough resources have to be channeled towards achieving the intended targets at schools. It seems the move was without further preparation. However, mining companies ought to assist these schools through provision of text books and right material to both teaching staff and pupils. They need to offer incentives to the teaching staff.
With the coming in of devolution, the mining companies need to commit themselves to honoring their obligations of paying tax to the treasury. The government also has an onus to make sure that the respective local governments receive their allocation through devolution funds. MRDC needs to prioritize funding social services like education. They must be instrumental in the establishment of well-equipped new schools whether permanent or satellite to replace those that were destroyed as a result of mining.
3. DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS.
The SDCs have to embark on developmental projects with support from companies. As mentioned before, mining is contributing heavily to the decline of the standard of education in many ways. Therefore, there is need for parents and companies to initiate some developmental projects such that parents will be able to meet tuition obligations.
4. CITIZENS INVOLVEMENT IN THE BUDGET PROCESS.
Citizens ought to be involved in the budget process both at national level and local level. That way they will be able to contribute or convince authorities about their priorities in terms of budget allocations.
5. ACCESS TO INFORMATION.
The non-availability of production figures publicly are a cause of concern although institutions like ZIMSTAT or ZMDC may have them, they tend to differ. According to section 62(2) 0f Zimbabwean constitution, ‘Every person has the right to access information held by any person including state, in so far as the information is required for exercise or protection of the right’. This becomes easy to trace how the taxes paid are used. So far there is great difficult to access the figures allocated to MRDC.
6. GIRL CHILD SUPPORT.
There is need for companies to make concerted efforts to promote the girl child even up to employment level. Girls remain vulnerable due to cultural practices and their biological makeup. Companies need to provide transport for students travelling long distance to and from school.
7. ORPHANS AND VULNERABLE CHILDREN (OVC).
Orphans and vulnerable children need support in terms of bursaries and other resources like food and clothing. The companies need to plough back to the community with bias towards developing disadvantaged scholars. Before diamond mining the schools went on to produce professionals like accountants, electricians, miners’ teachers, nurses and this still can be achieved if concerted efforts are made. Failure to have technical or tertiary institute in Chiadzwa is a cause of concern.
8. ENGAGEMENT AS A STRATEGY.
MRDC ought to deal with respective companies who are not remitting royalties to them and to the national fiscus. Civic societies and parents have a role to play. There is also need to encourage prioritization on allocation of resources to social services. There was talk of missing of 15 billion dollars and other huge sum of monies that was misappropriated yet they could have been channeled towards essential social service like education. This can be achievable if we are to avoid illicit financial flows (IFF) and diamond leakages in Chiadzwa. Although ZCDC offered cash through Zimunya Marange Community ownership scheme its distribution is still contestable. Officials from the Trust claim to have assisted in educational sector here and there.
The government of Zimbabwe was and is still the major shareholder in the majority of the diamond mining companies in Chiadzwa (not including Vast Resources and Katanga yet to operate) hence there is need for it to be seen giving utmost support in the aforementioned primary and secondary schools. A worrying trend was revealed by the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development during their analysis of 2019 budget. For instance BEAM was allocated US$25 million targeting 415 900 children. This implied that each beneficiary will be allocated US $60.11 per anum. ‘This then explains the accumulation of arrears owed to the ministry of primary and secondary Education over the years to the tune of US$81.7 million as of December 2017’. BEAM policy initiatives in education need to be synchronized with other initiatives in social protection and welfare for education policies to function as planned.
The views in this study do not necessarily represent that of organisation ZIDAWU or related partners but of the author.