Budgetary support for public education must be enhanced to ensure inclusive and equitable learning that narrows the gap between the rich and the poor, legislators have said.
Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education chaired by Ms Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga also suggests that high fees at expensive private schools include a levy that can help subsidise poor rural schools, with those schools in particular needing modern ITC equipment by the middle of next year.
Presenting a report on schools reopening after the Covid-19 lockdowns, Ms Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the committee had seen gaps emerging between families that could afford distance learning and those that could not.
“The committee has been largely concerned by the gap that Covid-19 has instigated whereby the ‘haves’ have been learning while the ‘have-nots’ have been playing. The Government-teacher impasse has further exacerbated the situation.
“Thus, the committee is of the view that Government must enhance budgetary support towards this sector as the country seeks to attain Sustainable Development Goal 4 on achieving ‘inclusive and equitable quality education’ and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” said Ms Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
The call for budgetary support comes as Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube is set to deliver the 2021 National Budget tomorrow.
Ms Misihairabwi-Mushonga said given that some schools, particularly those in rural areas, had no meaningful learning during the national lockdown, Zimsec should consider deferring examinations until early next year for the affected schools.
“This is possible because in Kenya they have deferred opening until next year. If they insist, it is unfair to proceed with people who had different levels of access to learning.
“With regard to those paying ridiculous fees like Trust Schools, let us have a levy to help rural schools so that the rich subsidise the poor. The rich cannot benefit from the poor,” said Ms Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
The committee also recommended that alternative methods of learning be comprehensive and inclusive of every learner, including the disadvantaged and vulnerable.
“Modern gadgets for learners such as tablets and laptops should be budgeted in the 2021 National Budget, and these should be distributed to rural schools by June 2021,” said Ms Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
In her contribution, Harare Metropolitan Proportional Representative MP, Cde Miriam Chikukwa (Zanu PF) said there was need for a proper plan to handle suspected Covid-19 cases in learning institution as some schools were simply calling parents to come and get their children.
Gweru Central legislator, Mr Brian Dube (MDC Alliance), said there was need to close the gap between the rich and the poor in schools so as to avoid the abuse of the vulnerable.
“If we fail to close the gap between the rich and the poor, those vulnerable at some point will be used by powerful people to rebel because they do not have anything to lose,” said Mr Dube.