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Child marriages, pregnancies rampant in Tsholotsho

In an interview with Southern Eye, Khumalo said they had a challenge with secondary schools, adding that the closest was located about 25km away.

The shortage of schools coupled with long distances walked to reach the nearest education institutions has forced some of school-going age children to abandon education and opt for early marriages in Tsholotsho, Matabeleland North province.

This was revealed by ward 1 councillor Witness Khumalo who said while he could not give figures offhand, the situation was compounded by lack of schools especially for secondary education.

In 2022, a nine-year-old girl from Tsholotsho was impregnated by a then 13-year-old relative and the father of the girl was initially arrested on suspicion of raping his daughter.

The girl delivered the baby at the United Bulawayo Hospitals on November 14, 2022 through caesarean section.

In an interview with Southern Eye, Khumalo said they had a challenge with secondary schools, adding that the closest was located about 25km away.

Ward 1 consists of Zilingane, Sodaka and Gibixhegu line areas.

“The nearest school that we have here is Samahuru Secondary which is about 25km from Gibixhegu line. After completing grade 7 our children face a challenge in proceeding with their education. We are doing a lot to avoid depriving our children of their basic right to education," Khumalo said.

“As we speak, we are in the process of constructing Zimwatudwa Secondary School to cut the walking distance for our children using Campfire proceeds but these are a drop in the ocean,” he said.

“This is also exacerbated by poverty. Those that are better placed usually transfer their children to boarding schools elsewhere.”

A villager in Gibixhegu line, Leonard Mpofu said they were still using schools that were built before independence and had lost hope of getting their challenges resolved by the responsible authorities.

“Schools are too far, especially secondary schools that are more than 10km away from our homesteads. Some of the children once they finish grade 7, they are forced to discontinue their education. There are so many of them who have no future besides engaging in early marriages, drug and substance abuse," Mpofu said.

“There is nothing we can do to control them since we are failing to take them to school. The only few get employment as cattle herders. We have tried to register our concerns with the responsible authorities to no avail, we will endure this forever.”

Mpofu said their children were forced to go to Khumbula, Samahuru and Dlamini secondary schools which were far and for one to travel to them they needed transport.

Tsholotsho acting chief executive Mbonisi Ncube said they had a list of projects they are doing including the construction of schools and clinics.

“It is a combination of efforts; we are trying our best to balance service delivery. Sometimes we use funds from Campfire projects, devolution funds and council revenues to complete some projects. Some are completed using the Campfire projects depending on the size of the projects. We do not want communities to carry the burden alone,” Ncube said.

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