THOUSANDS of orphans and underprivileged primary school pupils under the Basic Education Assistance Module are likely to be stranded after Unicef pulled out of the programme.
Unicef has been supporting more than 400 000 disadvantaged primary school pupils for the past three years.
Government fully pays tuition fees for BEAM secondary school children while donors, through Unicef, catered for primary school pupils.
Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister David Coltart yesterday said the pull out by Unicef would have “serious consequences” on the underprivileged children.
The development, he said, would “heap” more responsibilities on an already constrained Government.
“The move is going to have serious consequences on the lives of pupils under Beam,” said Minister Coltart. “What this means is Government will be forced to settle the difference but it’s common knowledge that Government does not have the resources.
“Last term, more than 400 000 pupils in primary education were supposed to benefit but not all of them got the assistance as funding from the donors was not enough.
“Government on the other hand has been struggling to cover the secondary school pupils,” he said.
BEAM was set up in 2000 to provide school fees for disadvantaged pupils.
Minister Coltart said the British Department for International Development, which paid a huge chunk of the fees for the pupils last term, indicated that it would also stop funding the programme next term.
DFID promotes sustainable development and elimination of poverty worldwide.
“DFID has funded the programme for the past six months of this year and have indicated that they are not able to continue.
“This leaves us in the cold and much needs to be done because those children have to be in school. My ministry will be working hand in hand with Minister of Labour and Social Welfare (Paurina Mupariwa) to ensure that something has been done for the pupils,” he said.
He added: “The permanent solution lies in working hard towards achieving our Millennium Development Goals.
“One of the goals in education is to achieve free education for all pupils in primary school. For this to be realised it calls for collective action.”
BEAM is managed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Services for the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture
Minister Mupariwa said schools were in the process of processing BEAM applications for the second term.
“DFID paid for the first term and it is our hope that funding for the second term will be availed to assist the children. We hope DFID will pay the money that is going to be co-ordinated by Crown Agents.
“If that happens, then it means the children will be safe,” she said.
BEAM has assisted a lot of children in the country and has been doing a lot to meet the educational needs of orphans and vulnerable children.