How do we stop money disappearing, asks expert

The campaign for the education of the girl child in Zimbabwe received a major boost last week, after the UK’s Department for International Development gave $19 million to the education ministry to educate girls.

In his keynote address at the function to hand over the money, Education Minister David Coltart lamented the current budget allocation by treasury, saying the $2 per child per month for the education of the child was “a pathetic amount that is not enough to cover the needs of educating a child”. The $19 million is expected to provide bursaries for 24,000 girls for four years.

Oswald Madziva, the Education Coalition of Zimbabwe Board Chairperson and Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe Programmes and Communication Officer, expressed concern over lack of budget tracking initiatives to rule out resource leakages and ensure accountability and transparency in the administration of the money. He criticised “the tendency to promote a closed and insulated bureaucratic approach in how these funds are disbursed and utilised” adding that “Stakeholder participation is limited and their involvement in contributing to the execution of these public funds is scarce.”

Madziva said that teachers’ organizations, despite being side-lined, have vast information on how these resources might be effectively utilized for the benefit of the intended beneficiaries – children. He welcomed DFID’s contribution but expressed concern that the money might not be used to best advantage. “Ministry officials have a tendency to hold a lot of ‘workshops’ – they sometimes become so frequent that you realise that these civil servants have devised a way to augment their meagre salaries through per diems and accommodation allowances attending endless workshops.”

He said communities must be assisted to find out how they can access such funds because lack of information is a major barrier to effective and equitable resource allocation to communities.

“It does not make any sense for the government to receive such a big donation and then it fails to popularise the availability of such funds to its citizens,” he said. “The presence of a clear information architecture packaged for all stakeholders in all the vernacular languages will ensure transparent administration of these donations.” Madziva lamented the existence of too many centres of power in the governance of schools as another key deterrent to effective utilisation of donor funding. “There are too many centres of power within schools. The Headman, School Development Committees (SDCs), councillors, village heads, politicians and the education ministry officials among others all have competing priorities over how schools should be run.”

He said this situation had been worsened by political polarisation in most parts of the country. A social commentator who is also a retired lecturer said donations were critical for the development of education. Rachael Masunda (75) said quality and excellence in the education sector should encompass all aspects including teacher training and remuneration. “Most qualified teachers shun rural schools because of poor accommodation facilities and failure by communities to pay incentives,” she said, adding that government should come up with strategies to “avert such unequal discrepancies” and ensure that urban and rural children have equal education opportunities.

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