Paying school fees is unconstitutional: MDC

Government should prioritise and amend the Education Act to ensure that every Zimbabwean child is guaranteed free education in accordance with the new constitution, says the MDC-T.

National Organising Secretary, Nelson Chamisa:  parents should take government to court.
National Organising Secretary, Nelson Chamisa: parents should take government to court.

Spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said it was unconstitutional for children of school-going age to pay fees because the constitution guarantees free education for every Zimbabwean child.

Speaking at a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Harare last week, Mwonzora attributed corruption and looting of the national resources by Zanu (PF) heavyweights as the main reason why development partners had stopped funding the country’s education sector.

“Parents should know that it is unconstitutional to pay school fees. We should come together irrespective of political affiliation and compel government to comply with the constitution,” he said.

The MDC-T maintains that donor funding to the education sector has dwindled because the international community is tired of funding an illegitimate government ‘known for being corrupt’.

“Development partners are aware that as a country, we are capable of funding the education sector on our own because of the abundant resources at our disposal,” said Mwonzora. “They cannot keep on funding a corrupt government but such actions are impacting negatively on orphans and vulnerable children.”

The party’s shadow minister of education, Concillia Chinanzvavana, said children’s rights to education cannot be negotiated. “After stealing the July 31 elections, it is now clear and evident that Zanu (PF) has created political and economic turmoil in the country in all sectors of the economy,” she said.

The statement comes in the wake of revelations by the parliamentary portfolio committee on Public Service Labour and Social Welfare that only $15 million was budgeted for the Basic Education Assistance Model.

The Permanent Secretary in the Public Service ministry revealed that government needs $73 million to pay school fees for orphans and disadvantaged children against the released $15 million, which he said was grossly insufficient.

Failure to raise the funds for BEAM by government means that almost a million Zimbabwean orphans and vulnerable children who depended on State assistance to pay school fees may be unable to enrol for school this year.

The MDC- T accused the education ministry of prioritising employment costs at the expense of pupils. “The education ministry had budgeted $1,2 billion but received $865,669. Although this is 20 percent of the total national budget, it is of concern that 95 percent of this amount, which is $828,340 million will go to employment costs, leaving only about 3,3 percent to cover for operational costs such as the provision of material resources and infrastructural development,” said Chinanzvavana.

“The proposed increment to teachers and related staff is a big insult considering the wealth of resources in the country. We are worried by the conditions of service of teachers and other school staff,” she added.

The party’s National Organising Secretary, Nelson Chamisa, said parents should take government to court to effect and ensure adherence to constitutional provisions that guarantee the education of all Zimbabwean children.

“Donors cannot keep on pumping money into a leaking bucket where proceeds are benefitting a minority few. Parents should come together and take the government to court for violating the constitution,” said Chamisa.

Article 27 (1) of the country’s supreme law compels the State to take all practical measures to promote ‘free and compulsory basic education for children including higher and tertiary education’.

Article 2 of the Constitution says: “The State must take measures to ensure that girls are afforded the same opportunities as boys to obtain education at all levels.”

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