1 social worker for 49,587 children

Government’s freeze on staff recruitment is grossly affecting service delivery in the Social Services department, a government official has said.

Due to a poorly performing economy, the government has introduced a recruitment freeze in order to manage a high salaries bill.

Speaking at the Children First Project, a USAID initiative that seeks to mitigate the effects of HIV/AIDS on orphans and other vulnerable children in Harare on Thursday, Minister of Labour and Social Services, Paurina Mpariwa, said there was need to increase the number of social workers in the department to improve service delivery.

The Children First Project is a five-year project implemented by World Education, a global programme promoting access to education and health.

Mpariwa said Zimbabwe had the lowest number of social workers attending to children in the region, a trend that has driven children onto the streets.

“The audit we carried out indicates that the ratio of a social worker to children in Zimbabwe is 1 to 49,587, compared to 1,867 children to 1 social worker in Botswana and 4,300 children to 1 social worker in Namibia.

“So over the last five years the Children First Project has been playing a very critical and complimentary role through its developmental programs in various communities,” she said.

US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, David Wharton, urged greater attention on the welfare of children.

“A society must be measured by the way it takes care of its children. The investments we make in thehealth and education of our children benefits the society in the long run,” he said.

Locally, the Children First Project reaches over 120,000 children through health, education, and child protection initiatives every year.

Susan Kajura, World Education Chief Party, said over the years they had managed to develop a case management model to link grassroots support to district service structures, which has been adopted by the Government of Zimbabwe.

“We also managed to strengthen and upgrade the Department of Social Services’ staff by developing an accelerated learning program that reached 1,348 out of school learners,” said Kajura.

But the achievements of the project are not enough to close the staff gaps in the department.

The event also saw the launch of a Sam Mtukudzi Scholarship which would ensure that vulnerable children remained in school. The late Mtukudzi was honoured for his work as a Goodwill Ambassador for the project. He championed children’s rights through his music.