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Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Thursday, 8 October 2009 16:41 UK

Bitter struggle to learn in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean children at school

Two Zimbabweans tell of their struggle to get an education and missed opportunities, as Africa Have Your Saybroadcasts LIVE from Zimbabwe, asking the youth if they feel they have a future in the country, since the formation of a unity government brought an end to the country's downward spiral.

JACK, 20, UNEMPLOYED, CHITUNGWIZA

I feel bitter that I have lost out.

I feel very bad; so bad because we had the best education system in southern Africa but now it is not.

I did my 'O' levels [GCSE] in 2005.

But for the past four years I have not been able to go to school.

Basically, I blame the situation that we had here as the one that stopped me from going further with my education.

Even all our most qualified teachers have gone - they are teaching in South Africa and Botswana. Most pupils are being taught by student teachers.

'We had nothing'

My father died in 2004 and my mother is a civil servant and so it has been too difficult.

I have been waiting to go back to school. I hope I will be able to one day.

For the past four years I have had to help my mother. I have two younger siblings in primary school and so I have been helping my mother by trying to work myself so we could get these guys to school and find something to eat.

Children reflections in a dirty puddle
For years, some children did not attend school

I worked at a shop and sometimes I had to go to South Africa and do some small jobs but it didn't work because I didn't have a passport.

My older brother is 22. He's not been living with us. He is based in South Africa and he's the one who was sending us groceries and supplies and money. Right now, he doesn't have to send groceries because at least that is OK now.

Before this deal, we had nothing.

You had to stand in a queue for two hours just to get a loaf of bread.

'Just hoping'

Education here is getting OK again but the problem is how expensive it is because we are using the US dollar.

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Myself, like the majority of people, I don't work and so it is a struggle to pay.

The majority of parents are paid $150 [a month] and for fees, the schools they want $30. It is a lot. A while back it was even more that the schools were asking for but no-one could afford so it was actually reduced from $80.

It was too much. Still, some people are not even going to school.

It doesn't help because people just do not have money.

The way I see the future, I am just hoping, but I am very sceptical.

Our leaders, they are always blaming each other. And so the way things are, I am really, really hoping.

Recently, we have faced a difficult time and even now that is why I am not revealing my real name because I know how things were and I don't know what will happen in the future.

I am just hoping that the situation and the intensity of difficulties and struggles can be adjusted.

It's a long process. How do you know that these plans will be fulfilled?

Everyone is hoping that life can be better but from my own perspective, if you ask anyone, the situation here will not change until we are free from the ones that liberated us.


PAMELA, 24, ACCOUNTING GRADUATE, CHITUNGWIZA

I believe we do have a future. Now with the national healing and the economic turn-around we do have a future.

I completed my first degree in accounting at university in Bulawayo [Zimbabwe's second largest city].

It took me four years and I count myself as being very lucky because I surmounted all the odds.

When I was in second year, our lecturers went on strike and we really struggled to get through.

It lasted a whole semester - three months.

'Who you know'

We had external lecturers coming in but they would come in their own time and so we didn't learn adequate stuff.

Us students worked in groups and did discussions and organised each other - we were very proactive and helped one another.

Zimbabweans queuing to vote [file photo from June 2008]
Last year's troubles seem far away for Pamela

And all this time our parents still had to pay.

Most universities suffered a huge downfall.

Our lecturers left for neighbouring countries.

For all my studies I had to source my own books. My older brother in the diaspora would send me the books I needed.

My graduation ceremony is being held next March. When I reach that point, it will feel like a burden off my shoulder.

I am already working. It wasn't easy for me to get a job but I managed - it comes down to who you know.

The job market is very scarce here in Zimbabwe because most companies have closed down.

But now with this unity government, the future looks bright. For one, the money I get paid is adequate for my needs.




Tune into Africa Have Your Say to debate whether Zimbabwe has opportunities to offer on Thursday 8 October at 1600 GMT. You can also find us on Facebook at facebook.com/africahys or follow us on Twitter @bbcafricahys. And you can send an SMS text message to +44 77 86 20 20 08.



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