Zim parents & teachers express growing anger

The education sector is witnessing growing anger from both parents of school learners and Zimbabwe’s teachers, because of rising school fees and stagnant salaries.

Some parents have expressed their anger to the media about proposed fee increases, which could be as high as 25%. Reports have said that state schools want to boost fees for day students from US$160 to US$180, and increase boarding fees to US$585 from US$560 a term.

SW Radio Africa has been told that some private school boarding fees are set to rise to about US$13000 for the year. The situation is so serious and the fees so high that many parents are said to be leaving for South Africa, where good government schools are still available.

Education Minister David Coltart said on Tuesday that the fee hikes are unavoidable, because the sector has been underfunded for more than a decade. He added that it is the government’s fault for not playing its part in ensuring the sector improves.

“This year we were allocated about US$60 million for education but we only saw about US$14 million of that to run all the schools. This is woefully insufficient and we’ve had to turn to parents and this means a fee hike,” Coltart explained.

He added that he hopes to make the process of fee increases as transparent as possible, saying nothing is yet set in stone. He said that “even when the fees are set, I plan to make the accounts for each school available on the bulletin boards every month so parents can see where their money is going.”

Finance Minister Tendai Biti last week announced more than US$700 million set aside for education in the national US$4 billion Budget. Coltart welcomed this commitment, but he was also cautious.

“The challenge is to turn this theoretical budget into a reality,” he said.

SW Radio Africa meanwhile has also been told that private school gardeners are earning more than government school teachers, who are still only earning about US$180 a month. PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou told SW Radio Africa that state teachers are earning “starvation wages.”

“It is unfortunate that the national budget didn’t make any room for salary increases because teachers are now condemned to perpetual poverty,” Zhou said.

Biti has previously admitted there is little money for salary increments, and made no direct reference to a much needed increase during his Budget speech last week. Instead, he adjusted the tax requirements so civil servants won’t be paying such high tax. Their ‘allowances’ have also been declared tax free as on January 1st.

Biti is already facing resistance to his 2012 Budget from within Cabinet, with MPs reportedly holding back approval of the proposals, until he gives in to their demands for new cars and outstanding allowances. Legislators from ZANU PF and the MDC-T have told the Daily News they would not give their approval until their ‘needs’ are met. – SW Radio Africa News

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