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Government Is To Blame: Unions

By Shingirai Vambe

Teachers’ unions have put the blame on the Zimbabwe government for failure to provide basic education to its citizens as prescribed in the Constitution, with many students sent back home for failure to pay fees by opening day, Post On Sunday reports.

The trend was across boarding schools running across to day schools.
Boarding school authorities argued that they did not have any food provisions for those who had not paid fees by opening day.

A boarder from Harare to one of the schools in Rusape, St Faith’s mission was seen hiking on the road after her parents had paid half the fees with a letter explaining settlement by pay day on the 18th of September.

Sadly, no full fees no entry.

Just like other provinces and districts, majority of schools, primary and secondary in Makoni District sent children back home after failing to produce either receipts, gate passes or money with the intention to pay school fees on Monday and Tuesday morning.

This has been of concern as schools open termly with legislators asking the Minister of Primary and Secondary education, if it is allowed to send away children for failure to produce gate passes. The response like any other time, is it is not government policy.

Unions have reached out to this publication, responding to the outcry, when schools are traditionally opened on Tuesday. The opening was coupled by Monday being the first week of the month, when tenants are expected to pay their rentals.

PTUZ president, Takavafira Zhou

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) President, Takavafira Zhou, told Post On Sunday Newspaper that it is illegal to send children back home, particularly on opening day.

“It is prudent that both parents and school authorities should engage each other and come up with a plan that must not disadvantage students learning. They are both off-side. Parents are also to blame, the schools respect parent engagement for payment plans,” Zhou said.

He added that schools were also off-side to demand payment on the opening day without giving parents time to look for the money given the hardships in Zimbabwe.

“I would also like to reiterate that demanding payment and in some instances in USD, considering that a majority of Zimbabweans are earning their salaries in ZWL is an evil act. The ministry of education has lost control of schools, they say one thing and the schools are doing a totally different thing,” added Zhou.

Majority of schools are demanding US dollars because of inflation, schools ended up asking parents for top-ups regardless of payment being done using parallel market rate of that particular day.

“Government has a responsibility to ensure that the greatest asset of a nation in terms of pupils receive education. It is a right not a privilege. The government is failing to make interventions in order to make it easier for parents to send their children to school, parents are equally incapacitated,” Zhou said.

Zimbabwe Minister of primary and secondary education, Dr Evelyn Ndlovu and her deputy, Hon Edgar Moyo

Zimbabwe Education Amendment Act Ch 25:04, Section 68 (C) (1) states that, no pupil shall be excluded from school for non-payment of fees or on the basis of pregnancy.

Who then is responsible for the safety and security of children outside school premises?

Majority of Zimbabweans are failing to take their children to school. The incapacitation has reached alarming levels where parents are vendors who spend most of their time playing cat and mouse game with municipalities and police officers.

It is largely a government responsibility for every citizen to live a normal life, it has renounced this responsibility and it is to blame for such a quagmire that the education system finds itself in.

Parents bemoaned the sending away of minor children as their safety is compromised on their way back home.

With some students set to sit exams in Grade 7, Form 4 and Upper 6, school heads must show empathy as pulling the bridge at this eleventh hour will derail plans for both parents and students.

Some grade 7s were sent back home to collect building fund.

“Only a heartless headmaster can send minor children home. With the number of missing children growing, who can refute the plan to get our children getting to be targets. Robbers have stolen from children and some girls have been raped.

Some students could be seen loitering in the streets, while few found their way home on foot after getting to school by arranged transport.

The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) president, Obert Masaraure said the government has not been sincere on education financing.

“If learners are not to be turned away from school then government should fully fund education as envisaged in Section 75 of the Constitution. Schools are desperately in need of resources, parents must unite and demand full funding for education, the economy has dollarised and schools transact in the same economy,” Masaraure said.

Masaraure however, added that the danger of sending away children, besides it being illegal, disadvantaged children from learning and gives them an opportunity to engage in drugs, sex and some robbed or raped on their way home.

“With high recorded cases of disappearance of children, once a child is taken to school, he or she becomes the responsibility of the school and school authorities should, at all-time guard against the unexpected and avoid taking risk,” said Masaraure.

The school must take over the parental or guardian role when a child is at school, parents in loco.

Ministry of primary and secondary education spokesperson, Taungana Ndoro

Contacted for comment, Ministry of education spokesperson, Taungana Ndoro told Post on Sunday that they have tasked schools inspectors to monitor errant school heads. They urged all government schools in Zimbabwe to adhere to the government policy, while urging parent to engage with school authorities to come up with payment plans.

But a commitment letter of assurance of payment of the other half was disregarded at St Faith’s.

“It’s illegal to send children away from school for non-payment of fees, it is very clear, we do have cases where certain government schools are not following the government directives,” Ndoro said.

Meanwhile, Rusape Town Council is demanding payments of bills and services in US dollars ahead of the councils indaba to be held at Harare International Conference Centre, where all 96 local authorities, both urban and rural, are expected to attend and participate after paying US$1000 attendance fee to their respective associations without meals and accommodation.

All councillors are expected to attend.