Hundreds of school pupils turned away

Hundreds of students both from primary and secondary schools were turned away from school on the first day of term this week for non-payment of fees.

Education Minister - Lazarus Dokora
Education Minister – Lazarus Dokora

This is despite directives by the Ministry of Education that school authorities should not do so.

The government has warned schools against barring learners from school with Education Minister Lazarus Dokora saying no child should be sent home for not paying fees.

In a survey around the city, most of the schools, both primary and secondary, have denied children access to school due to failure by the students to produce school fees receipts.

Children were chased away for various reasons including non-payment of the third term’s tuition fees, failure to clear balances from previous terms, and various levies such as building levy.

Many parents said they were not able to pay the school fees due to economic hardships.

“I am no longer employed. I used to work at Karina Textiles that has closed shop and where do you think I can get that money. I paid $68 but the school authorities said they want it in full,” said a parent who cannot be named.

He added: “I have tried to negotiate with the school head but to no avail. I think the government should assist us on this one.”

Shame Sithole a parent and a human rights lawyer said: “The chasing of children from school is a violation of the rights of children to access education, and also as a violation of their dignity and pride.”

He said the Ministry of Education, and the government should be held accountable for the development.

Said Sithole: “There is a need for the education department to put measures in place to ensure that schools adhere to the directives of the government on education.”

But a headmaster from a high school said: “As a school we need tuition fees and levies to function normally. We understand the plight of the parents but we are also in a tight corner.”

The provincial education director – Andrew Chigumira – could not commnt and referred this paper to the Education Minister.

Contacted for a comment Dokora said: “Parents and schools should rather discuss a payment plan instead of blocking children from attending class.”

He added that levies should be paid.

“Government simply protects the child that he or she should not be expelled because the contract to pay fees is between the parents and the school. While no child shall be expelled for non-payment of fees, it does not mean that parents should relax and find comfort in that. They should honour their obligation,” he said.

Dokora said school fees for this year at Government institutions including independent colleges remained frozen while voluntary levies or other unauthorised charges would not be tolerated.

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