Children in Zimbabwe


Zimbabwe Children


At the time of independence, Zimbabwe was known as the 'basket of Africa' given its strong agricultural sector. However, after Robert Mugabe took power and seized that land from white farmers and gave it to black farmers who did not have the skills or knowledge to work it together with a multi-million dollar foray into the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the economy shattered with Zimbabwe going broke with a reliance on food imports. While some saw Mugabe as a hero of the African liberation struggle against white minority rule, others condemned him as a dictator responsible for economic mismanagement and corruption along with serious human rights abuses. The verdict of the people of Zimbabwe is probably the most fitting footnote to Mugabe's rule in that, in 2017, he was placed under house arrest by the country's national army and his own party ousted him in a coup, replacing him with former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mugabe died two years later. Some idea of the culture of the new regime can be gleaned from Mnangagwa's nickname, the 'Garwe' or 'Ngwena' ('the crocodile' in the Shona language) and it is an offence to continue to drive when his motorcade goes past with many people assaulted by security forces for stopping in the wrong place or for not stopping soon enough.



Today Zimbabwe is in 150th place out of 189 countries and territories in terms of life expectancy, literacy, access to knowledge and the living standards of a country placing it in the medium human development category. Despite this, 76.3% of children in Zimbabwe's rural areas live in poverty (2020) and overall half of Zimbabwe's 14.86 million people (2020) live below the food poverty line with about 3.5 million children being chronically hungry. However the situation is improving wth a 3% growth in GDP (2021) mainly due to increased agricultural and energy production together with developing manufacturing and construction activities. In Zimbabwe, there are more than 1.3 million children orphaned by AIDS with an estimated 50,000 households headed by children below the age of 18. Traditionally these orphans would have been taken in and cared for by the wider family (that there is no such thing as a cousin in Zimbabwean culture, instead cousins are accepted and treated as brothers and sisters), however this network is under increasing pressure with 1.4 million people in Zimbabwe living with HIV with a current annual death rate of 40,000 (2019).


Children's Lives In Zimbabwe


Faced with having to stay out of school and support younger siblings or grandparents, many children run away after becoming orphaned with many tens of thousands ending up on the streets of Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, and other urban areas where they join gangs begging at traffic lights, undertaking work like washing cars or, more typically, committing crimes such as stealing and breaking into vehicles. Another issue for orphaned children is a deeply held belief amongst the Shona people that if they take someone into their home who is not of the same ancestors as themselves, it will cause them bad luck. As such, parents who remarry after the death of a child's mother or father will simply refuse to nurture the children from their spouse's former marriage leading many to leave home in the absence of love and even basics such as food, clothing and education. Many end up being exploited and undertaking manual work to survive (below) including mining and tobacco production with others trafficked into the farming sector.


Child Labour Zimbabwe


Education for children in Zimbabwe comprises two years of pre-primary school (called 'Early Childhood Development' or ECD), for 3 to 5 year olds focussing on the basic 3 'R's, then seven years of primary (6 to 12 year olds) normally taught in English but more so Shona or Ndebele in rural areas. After two years, students sit their Zimbabwe Junior Certificate when they are 13-14 years old. Children in zimbabwe then complete their secondary education with a further two years of study (typically 15-17 year olds) culminating in the General Certificate of Education ('O' level). Core subjects include English, history, maths, science and a technical/vocational subject. Successful candidates can then progress to sit their 'A' Levels.


Today Zimbabwe is the eighth-most educated country in Africa with a literacy rate of 86.50% however, according to UNICEF in 2021, only 14% of girls in Zimbabwe complete upper secondary school and, among the poorest children, this falls to just 1%. These figures are no doubt impacted by the fact that, according to the UNICEF Child Marriage Database (2020), 34% of girls are married in Zimbabwe before the age of 18 with 5% before the age of 15. The fact that a significant number of children in Zimbabwe never receive a birth certificate also has an impact as it limits their ability to secure a place at school. The video below shows aspects of life for children in Zimbabwe together with details of projects and programs supporting children in the country.




Children in Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe's Children

Children in Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe's Children


Children in Zimbabwe work in education providing safe water, nutritious food, infrastructure development and child protection programmes to increase school.

Visit >




Children in Zimbabwe: Makomborero

Children in Zimbabwe: Makomborero


Makomborero means 'blessings' in the local Zimbabwean language, Shona, and the charity invests in disadvantaged communities, supporting talented students to allow them to complete their education.

Visit >




Children in Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe Education Trust

Children in Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe Education Trust


The Zimbabwe Education Trustaim to help improve material conditions within the Zimbabwean education system and to improve socio-economic conditions for children and young people in their lives outside of education which helps keep children in school and out of poverty.

Visit >







Children in Zimbabwe: Mudeka Foundation

Children in Zimbabwe: Mudeka Foundation


The Mudeka Foundation provides orphaned and disadvantaged children in Zimbabwe with an opportunity for an education through providing scholarships for children identified by their schools to be in need of assistance with school fees.

Visit >




Children in Zimbabwe: Justice for Children

Children in Zimbabwe: Justice for Children


Justice for Children is a legal aid organisation which employs lawyers and other support staff who assist in providing free legal services to children in Zimbabwe in dificult circumstances.

Visit >







Children in Zimbabwe: Sponsor Children in Zimbabwe

Sponsor Children in Zimbabwe


Details of how to sponsor children in Zimbabwe with Zimbabwe child sponsor organisations, charities, programs and projects.

More >




Children in Zimbabwe: Volunteer in Zimbabwe

Volunteer in Zimbabwe


As well as sponsoring a child why not explore volunteering opportunities in Zimbabwe?

Visit >




Children in Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe Country Profile

African Country Profiles: Zimbabwe


In another of our African country profiles, find out all about Zimbabwe in a series of information articles, latest daily news, videos, and images together with volunteering and child sponsorship opportunities.

More >




Back  


Main sections of this site:


Volunteer by Country

Details of current volunteer work
opportunities in each of the
countries of Africa.

More >


Sponsor a Child
Sponsor a Child in Africa

Find how to sponsor a child in Africa
with our list of organisations,
charities, programs and projects.

More >


All About Africa

Discover all about Africa, its tourist
attractions, history, people, culture
and daily life there.

More >


African Resources

A treasure trove of African
resources from webcams to
free downloads and news.

More >