via Schools defy govt directive – NewsDay Zimbabwe January 15, 2014 by Moses Matenga and Veneranda Langa
SOME schools have defied a government directive that no pupils should be sent away for non-payment of fees.
The development comes in the wake of government’s failure to pay fees for 167 000 pupils under its Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam) due to inadequate budgetary allocations and the pull-out of donor assistance.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare director Sydney Mhishi revealed this yesterday when he appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Service.
“For Beam, the ministry got $15 million instead of $73 million and the allocated budget will only assist 83 000 against the targeted 250 000 vulnerable children, and the implication is that 167 000 children would not be able to access government assistance for secondary school,” he said.
Government pays $60 per secondary schoolchild under Beam which amounts to $45 million per year and $8 per primary schoolchild under Beam which amounts to $28 million per year.
He said his ministry had formally communicated to donors seeking assistance for Beam, but they had not yet responded to the request.
Aid to street children, children in difficult circumstances and support to persons living with disabilities, maintenance of the elderly and other vulnerable groups will also suffer due to inadequate funding.
Yesterday, NewsDay was inundated with calls from angry parents accusing school heads of defying the government directive.
In one incident, police in Mbare had to intervene after
parents of 35 pupils from Mutendi High School in Masvingo clashed with the hired school bus driver after they allegedly refused to pay bus fare for their children who had been turned away from the school.
Some of the disgruntled parents said that the stranded pupils only left the police station around midnight after police ordered them to pay $8 each for the trip.
“The matter was settled at Mbare Police Station where parents were told to pay $8 for transport, but what happened was discrimination of the highest order. Our children are not happy with that and their studies might be affected,” a concerned parent said.
But Mutendi High School headmaster Sanctions Nathaniel Mutendi said he was not aware of the incident as he was attending a church meeting in Mwenezi.
“I don’t know anything about that. I was attending a church meeting in Mwenezi. Let me talk to others first before I come back to you,” Mutendi said.
He had not responded to the queries at the time of going to print last night.
Mutendi High School transport committee chairperson Zuze Zuze, however, confirmed the fracas saying parents were angry and declined to pay the bus fares prompting the driver to flee to a nearby police post with the children.
At St John’s Chikwaka in Murehwa, parents complained that their children were kept out of dormitories for the whole day only to be
taken in after they were forced to sign some surety forms committing themselves to paying the fees within a specified period.
“The children felt embarrassed and humiliated
as they were denied entry into dormitories despite
commitments by parents to pay fees. It was in bad taste and I think going forward, government must make sure the children are protected by school heads and teachers,” a parent said.
Primary and Secondary School Education minister Lazarus Dokora was recently in the media saying: “As schools open, no child
should be sent home for not paying schools fees and, if
in any case it happens, it is the responsibility of every
parent to seek dialogue with the school head over a payment plan.”
Efforts to get comment from Dokora yesterday were fruitless as he was said to be in a meeting.