Inequalities and poverty caused by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have seen nearly one million pupils dropping out of school, studies have shown.
According to findings by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, the temporary closure of schools saw more than 840 000 pupils countrywide drop out of school.
The foundation's programs Manager, Fungisai Sithole, said their investigations had shown that out of approximately six million students that enroll at learning institutions annually in the country, about 840 000 had dropped of school, with Matebeleland being the most affected.
"The national average of school dropouts is at 15%, but Matabeleland South doubles the national average and so we need to do more and try to address the issue of school dropouts as a country," Sithole said.
The coronavirus sent school systems across the nation into a tailspin, many shifting to remote learning models that had never been used before. That switch shined a bright light on an already decades-old crisis, which made it difficult for historically marginalized areas especially in the Southern regions of the country.
"Some of the reasons why some provinces experience a zero percent pass rate are because the teachers are simply not there. That monitoring aspect should be reintroduced. Schools are naturally on autopilot and yet children are expected to produce results from there.
"The issue is with the government changing the budget structure for the education sector. The Primary and Secondary Education ministry budget must be increased and more emphasis must be placed on digitization or online learning as a deliberate approach," Sithole said.
At its peak, more than 188 countries, encompassing around 91% of enrolled learners worldwide, closed their schools to try to contain the spread of the virus.
School closures have a very real impact on all students, but especially on the most vulnerable ones who are more likely to face additional barriers.
They risk falling further behind and becoming isolated with school doors closed. These students are likely to lose the most in terms of educational outcomes and the support provided by schools if countries take insufficient measures to promote educational equity and inclusion.