Information by Country

Zimbabwe: Background

This map does not reflect a position by UNICEF on the legal status of any country or territory or the delimitation of any frontiers.
Zimbabwe is enduring its worst humanitarian situation since independence a quarter-century ago. The origins of Zimbabwe’s crisis are as complex and multifaceted as they are devastating. National issues include the AIDS epidemic, declining economic performance, political polarization, policy constraints, harsh environmental conditions, such as drought, limited donor support for development programmes and depleted capacity in the social-services sectors.

By 1990, primary school completion rates in Zimbabwe peaked at 83 per cent (an outstanding performance in Southern Africa), but by 2003 they had dropped to 63 per cent. The overall effect was reduced enrolment and increased drop-out rates, re-emergence of gender disparity and deterioration in the quality of teaching.

Barriers to girls’ education

  • Poverty is a major challenge for girls, frequently forcing them to drop out of school. Daughters are seen as a source of income through child marriage, so poor families often prefer to send their sons to school.
  • The high cost of education has resulted in low enrolment rates for both boys and girls.
  • Labour migration and death from AIDS have resulted in child abuse and sexual exploitation of girls in the absence of parental supervision.
  • Child labour is rampant, especially for girls, because they are seen as a source of cheap labour.
  • Distances to school are long and safety is lacking; in addition, sociocultural norms dictate that girls should be confined to the home.
  • The quality of basic education is declining.

UNGEI in action

The UNGEI partnership was initiated in 2005, and a National Strategic Plan for the Education of Girls and Other Vulnerable Children was launched in October 2006. The Plan will be guided by the following visions:

  • A society in which girls and women are empowered to take charge of their lives and fully participate in national development.
  • All orphans and other vulnerable children in Zimbabwe will have access to basic education services that positively impact their lives.

Key initiatives for the Strategic Plan for girls’ education:

  • Policy and partnership development for integrated and multi-sectoral action.
  • Support for transformation of schools into quality, child-friendly learning environments.
  • Community and institutional capacity development to prevent transmission of HIV.
  • Introduction of guidance and counselling services in schools.
  • Improved curriculum quality, relevance and gender sensitivity.
  • National expansion of Girls’ Education Movement (GEM) clubs to empower girls and boys.
  • Information and communication addressing religious and cultural barriers.


At the national level, the UNGEI partnership is comprised of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture, the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED), CHIPAWO (formerly known as the Children's Performing Arts Workshop), Forum for African Women Educationalists Zimbabwe Chapter (FAWEZI), the Girl-Child Network, Misasa Plan International, UNESCO, United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, UNICEF and the World Food Programme.

UNGEI is not active at the provincial and community levels.

UNGEI within other national and international frameworks

The Strategy Plan for girls’ education is in harmony with national priorities and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework.


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