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More than 13 000 primary and secondary school pupils dropped out of school in 2013 owing to early marriages and lack of school fees, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has said.

According to a 2013 Education Management System report released by the ministry last week, the number of drop-outs at primary education level increased from 23 percent in 2012 to 43 percent in 2013.

The ministry revealed that about 52 percent of secondary school drop-outs were females, adding that 40 percent of all primary school pupils who failed to proceed with their education were also females.

“At secondary level 2 289 dropped out of school comprising 1 063 females and 1 226 males because of school fees, while 1 191 failed to continue because of marriages, with 801 of them being females and 390 males. Absconded has 901, while pregnancy has a total of 856 drop-outs,” the ministry said.

“At primary level, 2 784 dropped out because of school fees consisting of 1 646 males and 1 138 females followed by absconded, which consists of 591 males and 440 females. Death and unknown reasons have 525 and 625 respectively.”

There are 2 374 secondary and 5 805 primary schools in Zimbabwe.

The report also revealed that only 157 in every 1 000 pupils successfully progress from Form 1 to Upper 6, which is down from 168 calculated from 2012. The increased number of school drop-outs comes as the ministry is grappling with a huge number of children failing to access the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) in the payment of fees.

The recent report also noted that the number of schoolchildren repeating the same grades was increasing due to school fees and marriages.

Mashonaland West, Matabeleland North and Midlands have the highest number of repeaters at secondary level with over 5 percent, while Harare, Masvingo and Manicaland have comparatively low levels of repeaters for all levels of education.

According to the report, at least 165 000 pupils failed to access BEAM owing to bureaucratic bungling, rendering the service to undeserving pupils, leading to the fund being overstretched.

A 2014 audit report by the Comptroller Auditor General also revealed that $2 million meant for BEAM was unused under former Minister of Public Labour and Social Services led by Minister Paurina Mupariwa.

Some of the pupils failed to have their fees paid after the cheques were dishonoured for missing digits on bank accounts of benefiting schools or misspelt names.

It was noted in the report that no one made efforts to rectify the mistakes, leading to thousands of pupils being affected.

There are over one million orphaned and vulnerable children in Zimbabwe that need some interventions by the Government.

Despite the challenges rocking the education sector, Zimbabwe has the highest literacy rate in Africa at 91 percent.

Source : The Herald