No education for the poor

rg_mugabe_school_maronderachildren sent home for failing to pay fees
Government, parents and schools are trapped in an economic survival dilemma. All parties are broke and struggle to make ends meet. Everyone is yet to recover from the effects of the economic meltdown experienced by the country during

MARONDERA – Minister of Education, David Coltart, has reiterated that no child should be barred from attending lessons because of failure to raise school fees. But his instructions have fallen on deaf ears.

Our policy is that no child should be denied access to education because his parents failed to pay school fees. Every child has a right to education, said Coltart.

But thousands of school children across the country were shocked to find school gates closed for those who failed to pay fees ahead of the third term which started last Tuesday victims of schools insensitive policy, in direct contravention of government policy.

The government called on schools not to turn away children whose parents failed to raise fees. But school authorities claim government did not communicate its position on fees in writing and argued that they could not survive if parents did not pay for their childrens education.

In the past schools could accept installment fee payments. We are shocked to learn that the policy was changed without notice this time around. My parents managed to raise $200 for deposit and would pay-off the balance of another $200 end of next month. Unfortunately school authorities could not accept the arrangement. I am traveling back to Chinhoyi to try and raise the balance. Preparations for my end of year Advanced Level examinations have been jeopardized, said Nervison Mulena, enrolled at a Mission Boarding School in Rusape.

School authorities were adamant that should they let school children attend lessons with fee arrears, schools would be unable to pay electricity and water bills. Managing school running costs would also be a challenge. But this excuse was dismissed by parents and school children.

Should we allow non-fee paying children in school, electricity supplies would be terminated by service providers and eventually the school would run out of water and be forced to close. The school also has to maintain good feeding standards and we cannot afford the meals without parents meeting their end of the deal, said an administration officer at Benard Mizeki College in Marondera.

Teachers unions, especially the Zimbabwe Progressive Teachers Union, expressed concern at policies and conduct which disadvantaged poor children. Whatever action taken by teachers or schools should not further jeopardize the future of the poor. Poor parents cannot afford fees for children at private schools should public institutions close due to industrial action or other reasons. Educational needs of disadvantaged communities must be taken care of and be guarded jealously, said Secretary General, Raymond Majongwe, at his meetings with teachers affiliated to the union across the country early this year.

The fees dilemma hit hardest those parents with arrears dating back to last term. Affected children fear they may not attend lessons until examinations have commenced.

The $230 deposit my single parent raised was the best she could afford. I am going home to study on my own but my future hangs in the balanced. I thought I would polish up my examination preparations under guidance of teachers in class. This would not be as I am virtually out of the education system. My chances of progressing to University next year have been compromised. I am now confused and disappointed. Confused because there is no guarantee that my widowed, mother who is a vegetable vendor, wound raise the balance anytime soon. Disappointed because in a so called democratic Zimbabwe, education remained a preserve for the rich, said an Advanced Level student at Waddilove Boarding School near Marondera, who chose to be identified as Tim.

Children sitting Advanced Level, Ordinary Level and Grade Seven examinations starting next month were hard-hit. The third is used by teachers and children to practice examination techniques and go through the school syllabus.

People placed hope for a better future in the new constitution.

Government should provide free education at primary level and put in place facilities to assist the poor at high school. This should be guaranteed in the constitution. Given that Chiadzwa diamonds were certified to be auctioned, there was no reason for government not channeling raised revenue towards needs of the needy, said Clemence Chinyama of Marondera.

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