Six years ago Zimbabwe forced 700,000 families out of their homes, when it demolished slums in several big cities in what it called Operation Murambatsvina.
These families were promised better lives, but campaign group Amnesty International says many children are in a worse place, going to makeshift schools in new settlements, and some drifting into the sex trade to make ends meet.
Hundreds of thousands of families lost their livelihoods and schools were demolished as a result of Operation Murambatsvina, which in the majority Shona language means ‘Drive Out the Filth.’ Some say the programme was carried out by the government of President Robert Mugabe to disperse people living in cities who supported the opposition Movement for Democratic Change of now-Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
In a new report, Left behind: The impact of Zimbabwe's mass forced evictions on the right to education, Amnesty said the government had taken a ‘step backward’ when it launched Operation Murambatsvina. The government took children out of areas where they had been going to school and six years later it had failed to build any schools in the new settlements, it said. Left with no better option communities had started to set up their own unofficial schools, striking a "devastating blow to the lives and dreams of thousands of children".
"The new settlements are worse than where people lived," said Simeon Mawanza, who wrote the report.
"If there is no serious investment by the government, these people will be condemned to a life of poverty and suffering," he told a news conference in Harare.
Education Minister David Coltart said that the Amnesty report was ‘credible,’ and that his ministry does not have programmes specifically targeting child victims of Murambatsvina. He said most Zimbabwean children were affected by the country’s slide in education standards over the last 10 years, so his ministry is trying to help poor children. He said that the country has already taken big steps in addressing the issues flagged up in the Amnesty report.