via Fees: School to seize defaulters’ cows 24 August 2014
ANGRY parents of children attending a Gokwe primary school have turned the heat on teachers and authorities at the school, accusing them of unleashing debt collectors to snatch their wealth over unpaid fees.
This comes after debt collectors, assisted by local community leaders, reportedly confronted defaulting parents, threatening to seize their livestock over unpaid tuition fees.
Peeved by the unusual move taken by Musita Primary School authorities, the parents have besieged the school, whose teachers have sent an S.O.S to their trade union group, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ).
“We have it on good authority that problems at Musita started after the school engaged some debt collectors who threatened the owing parents and guardians,” wrote Raymond Majongwe’s PTUZ on its Facebook page.
“The debt collectors are said to have threatened parents promising they would even collect goods including chickens, goats and cattle to recover the outstanding school fees.
“It has come to our attention that these so-called debt collectors are charging outrageous collection fees.”
“This did not go down well with some of the villagers leading to the ‘attacks’ which were first directed at the headmistress whom they thought was after their ‘riches’ then at the rest of the staff members,” said PTUZ.
“The head and (her) staff are mere victims of a ministerial policy which has allowed individuals and organisations who have nothing to do with education to get into our schools and in our view this policy must be revisited before worse things happen in our schools.”
“To all our teachers at Musita Primary school, the PTUZ is saying your lives come first before employment, Comrades stay away from this school until the ‘raining’ stones have stopped.
“We urge the ministry to show leadership and not send some mickey-mouse junior officers who are going there for the fun of it. People’s lives are at risk.”
The decision to sue defaulting parents came after government introduced a policy that barred schools from turning back children whose parents have failed to pay their fees, choosing the unpopular route of suing the parents.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Lazarus Dokora has insisted parents who defaulted on paying fees for their children had opened themselves up to civil suits by schools for failing to meet their parental obligations.
Dokora said local education was not free, remarks that infuriated parents who persistently claimed they did not have a penny to their names.
“If you have a child, it is your responsibility to pay levy for the child. Failure to do that is criminal and I told headmasters to take such people and report them to authorities.
“If you are in rural areas, report to local headmen. I don’t remember saying education is for free.”
Dumbstruck parents who attended the meeting challenged the bearded government official to suggest where they could get the money during the current economic crisis where potential employers were shutting their companies down.
“There is nothing for free,” Dokora said to parents who began heckling him.