No food, no blankets for mentally challenged at Zimcare



MASVINGO – Some 10 or so mentally challenged children returned to school at Zimcare for the second term to find no food nor blankets as the Ministry of Education and Department of Social Welfare continue to haggle over the fate of the minors.

The Mirror visited the place on the opening day and found out that children were being given one blanket each despite the long winter ahead and parents were being told to bring food for their children to the school that is now a boarding.

The Mirror has an audio clip in which the school head Sabelo Ziruwara is asking parents to bring foodstuffs for the children after which they would get receipts.  Parents accused Ziruwara of forcing their children at the Zimcare makeshift hostels.

Minister of Public Service, Social Welfare and Labour  Paul Mavima has declared that the makeshift hostels created out of the classroom blocks by Zimcare for the children were inappropriate and not to standard and instructed that they be stopped. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Schools, Tumisang Thabelo also ordered Zimcare not to start a boarding school before constructing proper hostels.

Zimcare whose role currently is to provide education for the mentally challenged is trying to turn itself into a boarding and remove more than 60 children who are housed at the Roman Catholic run Alfred Walter hostels.

Sources told The Mirror that the fight between the two entities is over grants that come from the Ministry of Education for each child in boarding. Zimcare and several senior officials at the Ministry’s district and provincial offices are said to be eyeing the grants for personal benefit.

Alfred Walter Hostels have standard facilities for mentally challenged children, nurses and clinic facilities and a plethora of local and international donors who support the boarding place and therefore make it comfortable for the children to live. Meanwhile Zimcare just turned a block of classrooms into hostels and there are no appropriate toilets, beds, utensils and kitchen for preparing children’s food. To make matters worse boys and girls share the same hostel creating risks of underage sex and pregnancies.

Zimcare hostels are also manned by untrained caregivers.

The issue of one blanket is said to have shocked parents not only because it is winter but the children wet themselves and should under normal circumstances be allocated five blankets each.

Ziruwara refused to comment when The Mirror approached him at the school and asked reporters to get clearance from the District Schools’ In Inspector Ishmael Chigaba.

Efforts to get a comment from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson Tarusenga Ndoro were futile.

“We do not have any food. We appreciate the little that you bring and you will be given a receipt for the food stuffs that you bring. We hope to have food soon but for now we do not have the money to buy food,” Ziruwara and his deputy are heard telling a parent in an audio clip.

However, The Mirror has been told that many parents are of meagre income and they stay in rural areas and they can’t afford to buy food.

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