Improving access to education for children in informal settlements

A new Spark Fund partner, Do It for the Kids, is helping underprivileged children in Zimbabwe access basic education.

As the dust settles, the echoing voices of men and women fade into the stillness of the early-morning breeze. Three little boys bend over mounds of garbage in the aftermath of a waste collection rush. Each rush begins with the sound of garbage trucks as they make their way into the dumpsite, followed by a surge of men and women jostling for valuables for resale. Children gather on the sidelines, eager to see the end of the contest, which marks the beginning of their own expedition. This is daily life at an informal settlement on the outskirts of the city of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.

Richmond Landfill, popularly known as Ngozi Mine, is Bulawayo’s main dumpsite. It is home to hundreds of impoverished families who have built makeshift homes around the dumpsite and eke out a living through waste picking.

The Ngozi Mine community faces a myriad of challenges, including food insecurity, lack of access to safe drinking water, lack of schools for children, absence of health centers, and poor sanitation. The settlement, being unofficial, does not receive basic services from the local authority.

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Children holding artwork after a weekend art lesson. © GFC

Parents in this community lack the ability to pay for their children’s school fees and school supplies. Moreover, education is often considered an impediment that reduces the family labor force for waste collection. As a result, some children have become accustomed to making money through picking waste at the dumpsite to assist their families and have lost interest in attending school.

Do It for the Kids (DIFTK), a new Spark Fund partner in Zimbabwe, is helping children from Ngozi Mine to access basic education. The organization is paying school fees; providing school supplies and extra lessons; and offering families basic food supplies to enable children to spend less time scavenging at the nearby dumpsite.

DIFTK Co-Founder and Executive Director Terrence Kandiado said the organization has enrolled five children at a primary school in a nearby suburb and is helping them to stay in school.

“We now have a good relationship with the school, and they have given us a teacher to monitor the progress of these children in school,” Terrence explained. “They are all in the fifth grade but are at the level of grade 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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A DIFTK volunteer assisting a child with watercolor painting. © GFC

UNICEF’s State of Global Learning Poverty: 2022 Update states that 70% of 10-year-olds worldwide are unable to read and understand a simple text – a situation called learning poverty. According to the report, learning poverty was worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic and other disruptions. While the pandemic brought unprecedented challenges for most learners, children in informal settlements have faced even bigger challenges preventing them from enjoying their right to basic education.

DIFTK supports children from the settlement to break the cycle of poverty through increasing access to education.

“We believe that people from disadvantaged backgrounds can still make it in life,” Terrence said. “[We are] delivering hope, one child at a time, for the glory of God.”

The organization has been conducting weekend classes to provide extra lessons to the kids it is supporting as a way of shifting mindsets and allowing them to dream beyond their current circumstances. In addition, DIFTK holds an art class that is meant to build self-confidence and creativity.

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GFC´s Atlas Corps Fellow Blondie Ndebele posing for a photo with children after an art class. © GFC

Betty Moyo, a resident at the Ngozi Mine settlement, bemoaned the high rates of teen pregnancy and child marriage in the area. She further indicated that drug and alcohol abuse are rampant, which she attributed to limited access to education.

Terrence noted that growing up in an environment with high levels of substance abuse and early pregnancy presents challenges that make it difficult for children and adolescents to get an education. One of DIFTK’s long-term goals is to enable motivated students from Ngozi Mine – like the five whom the organization is currently supporting in school – to attend boarding schools so they can focus on their education.

DIFTK is a local partner in the Spark Fund, a partnership between GFC and the Avast Foundation that provides youth-led and youth-focused groups with financial support and capacity development. Earlier this year, a regional youth panel in Africa designed and led the grantmaking process in this region, selecting 16 organizations in Lesotho, Namibia, and Zimbabwe to receive Spark Fund grants.

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