Zimbabwe’s 90 percent literacy rate disputed

Misheck Rusere, AfricaNews reporter in Harare, Zimbabwe


Zimbabwe’s much touted literacy rate of more than 90% has been disputed as having been outdated since the figures are based on data collected by UNESCO and the government more than a decade ago.

We roughly estimate that the literacy rate for those over 15 is dropping a half percent each year and that will accelerate to 1% each year as those who left school after 2005 reach age 15,” writes Zimbabwe Reads on its website.

The same organization goes on to state that the Zimbabwean education situation is likely to worsen if the current conditions continue to prevail adding that Zimbabwe might not even be the continent’s highest literary country.

“If current conditions continue, Zimbabwe will have a literacy rate of 70% in 2020. At this stage, it seems unlikely that Zimbabwe still has the highest literacy rate in Africa, with the more reliable estimates from Botswana (85%) and Tunisia (87%) probably surpassing it,” it states.

Zimbabwe Reads observes what it refers to as “a very disturbing tendency” of high rate of children dropping out of school since 2005 where it states that about 15% of the country’s children never enter the school system while a further 30% never make it to secondary schools.

According to the organization, the number of patrons in almost all the libraries in the country continue to decrease since the late 80s with the current figures standing at as less as half the 1989 figures.

“In 1989, there were more than 150,000 registered public library users using 76 public libraries. The user numbers for 2011 are certainly less than half of that. The Bulawayo Public Library reported 10,289 patrons for the year preceding July 2011; the National Free Library had 8016 patrons (but only 250 paid the registration fee to borrow).”

The organization has also noted that most libraries in the country carry materials that are published only in English at the neglect of local languages estimating fewer than 50 titles in indigenous languages. Most books with titles in local languages are reported to have been published long ago and have been kept in stock by local bookshops like Mambo Press.

The Zimbabwean government and UNESCO reports that the country has a literacy rate of more than 90% with the current Minister of Education David Coltart intensifying efforts to restore the education sector which had sharply declined as a result of the economic meltdown which characterized the country for a period spanning to more than a decade.

Meanwhile the United Kingdom through its Department of International Development (DFID), recently injected 24 million pounds (around 38 million USD) into the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Zimbabwe, to support the country’s second phase of the Education Transition Fund (ETF II) which is a multi-donor pooled fund set up at the inception of the inclusive government in 2009 by Education, Sports, Arts and Culture Minister David Coltart in partnership with UNICEF in a bid to bridge the sector’s funding gap from emergence to recovery.


Posted by on Apr 19 2012. Filed under African News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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