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. The population comprises two main ethnic groups, the majority Shona and the Ndebele of the south-east. The Shona have their own language which is spoken by an estimated 75% of Zimbabwe's population and they are perhaps best known for their finely carved wooden headrests and stone sculptures.


Children's Lives In Zimbabwe


Children generally grow up within an extended family network reflected for example in the fact that there is no such thing as a cousin in Zimbabwean culture, instead cousins are accepted and treated as brothers and sisters. Traditionally, the Shona people operate a patrilineal family structure where the father is both the decision maker and breadwinner for the entire household with the oldest brother or oldest male child assuming the role of the second father with women being expected to honour and obey their husbands. Literally. On marriage, a woman will move into their husband's home and from thereonin descent and leadership will be passed down his side of the family although, within the Shangani people, the husband will move into the wife's home on marriage. Collective family upbringing of children in Zimbabwe runs deeps with a Shona proverb relating, "you do not educate your child for yourself alone; education is for society, by society". In other words, children's development is seen as a community responsibility. On average there are 3.53 births per woman (2019) in Zimbabwe and there is incomprehension at people who don't wish to have children, not least because the question of exactly who else will then do chores around the home! In rural areas, children in Zimbabwe live in villages and on farms in homes traditionally made from brick or mud (below) using a pole construction to support thatch or more commonly nowadays, tin roofs. Most villages communities have around one hundred inhabitants.


Zimbabwe Rural Homes


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, 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). 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 cars. 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.



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.


Child Labour Zimbabwe


Many children in Zimbabwe, particularly those in rural areas, will become engaged in agriculture which provides work and income for 60-70% of the overall population and contributes an estimated 17% of Zimbabwe's GDP. As across much of Africa, this work and food supply is becoming more unstable with low and erratic rainfall and periodic droughts made worse by a deteriorating soil fertility, low investment, and poor infrastructure. Most involved in agriculture grow staple foods such as maize, millets, and groundnuts however these subsistence farms have less than 5% of national irrigation facilities. As such, less than 10% of rural children aged 6–24 months have a proper diet with children in these rural areas being more likely to be stunted and underweight than those in urban areas. Other children will grow up working in mining, and tobacco production and urban jobs. Many will be involved in child trafficking with an estimated 13% of all children working in the farming sector. The video below shows aspects of life in Zimbabwe together with projects and programs supporting children in Zimbabwe.




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 >




Back  


Main sections of this site:


Sponsor by Country

Details of child sponsorship
programs in each country in Africa
and how you can help.

More >


African Children

Find out more about the lives and
challenges of children in Africa in
a series of articles and videos.

More >


Street Children

Information about the growing crisis
of street children in Africa often
escaping poverty and violence.

More >


Children with AIDS

HIV and AIDS has had a devastating
impact on children and their
families across Africa.

More >


Africa Resources
African Child Resources

A treasure trove of African child
resources from webcams to
children in need programs.

More >


Volunteer in Africa

Details of current volunteer work
opportunities in each of the
countries of Africa at our sister site.

Visit >


Get listed Here!

Get your African child sponsorship
program or organisation
listed here for FREE!

More >


Search the Site!
Search the Site

Can't find what you are looking for?
Search the site here using
our powerful search engine!

More >