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Zimbabwe once had one of Africa's finest education systems, but a declining economy hit living standards, throwing many into hardship and limiting opportunities for children. At our three SOS Children's Villages, we help vulnerable children flourish through the very best care, education and healthcare. … more about our charity work in Zimbabwe

Dreaming of an education

Dreaming of an education

A personal view by Lucy Patterson, ‘Our Africa’ editor

It is a shocking realisation that children as young as ten years old, thousands of miles away, are taking terrifying and dangerous journeys from Zimbabwe to South Africa in search of an education. 

Zimbabwe was once a country envied by its neighbours for it schools, but political and economic unrest has seen Zimbabwean schools crumble and teachers, caught up in political warfare, unable to teach.

A report on BBC Radio 4, Crossing Continents: Zimbabwe’s child migrants, showed the deep suffering that so many young children endure, every day, to fulfil their dream of receiving an education.  For the ones who make it, the treacherous journey seems worth it; but for many the obstacles they face become too much to bear and a life of drugs, begging and fear engulfs them.

That raises the question… is receiving an education worth the risk of such a dangerous journey with no guarantee of shelter or food, let alone an education? What is the alternative in a country where children see no future for themselves? It is the spirit of these children which makes the story so heroic and humbling.

The same spirit and motivation of children in Zimbabwe could be seen on a recent filming project to Zimbabwe for a unique learning resource called ‘Our Africa’ by the world’s largest orphan charity, SOS Children’s Villages.

SOS Children's Villages ZimbabweThe ‘Our Africa’ project has seen children from all across Africa, not just Zimbabwe, create films about their country and their lives to give a truly unique experience of Africa.

The evolving website at www.our-africa.org, featuring short videos from each country across the continent, shows children of different ages talk about topics relevant to their everyday lives. It is currently being rolled out through schools in the UK and offers students a different learning experience and a unique perspective on Africa.

Lee Hunter, Deputy Head Teacher at The Tiffin Girls’ School in London, says: “The beauty of ‘Our Africa’ is that it shows children in the UK the similarities between their own lives and children living in Africa.  As well as showing the obstacles that many young people face living in Africa, it essentially shows young people with similar mindsets, ambitions, hopes and interests. It is a great learning tool.”

An education for children in Africa can mean life or death to them and this is one comparison children in the UK cannot relate to. It is a struggle, in the UK, to get a child out of bed for school in the morning for a ten-minute warm car journey, to a school with state-of-the-art facilities. Even the most grateful, selfless John Lewis Christmas advert child cannot be blamed for this attitude. They will never have to go to such extreme lengths for an education.  

Although many African children face adversity and obstacles in life, what they have in bucket loads is determination, will-power and a hunger for an education that seems worth risking everything to receive.