Rural parents face loss of property over debts

Chigwedere Primary School in Wedza in Mashonaland East Province has taken legal action against parents who are in arrears with school fees.

Primary and secondary education minister Lazarus Dokora
Primary and secondary education minister Lazarus Dokora

Primary and secondary education minister Lazarus Dokora has insisted that schools use court processes to force parents to pay outstanding fees – a diktat that parents have strongly criticised.

The school, through the School Development Committee chairperson, Caston Chaza, reported the parents to headman Mubaiwa who in turn reported the parents to debt collectors.

In letters addressed to about 80 parents, a debt collection company told parents: “Having obtained judgement from the courts against you, we advise that we will proceed with instructing the messenger of court to attach, remove and sell by auction all your property, should you not come to our offices immediately upon receipt of this notice.”

In response to these letters, the parents visited the Wedza offices of the debt collection company, where they were forced to sign affidavits, agreeing that if they failed to pay the money they owed the school, their property would be taken.

To add further to the troubles for the parents, the chief summoned them to the community court for allegedly disrespecting him. He claimed that he wanted to negotiate with them on payment plans for the fees, but they refused.

Parents told The Zimbabwean that they were trying to raise the fees without success. One father said he had a productive vegetable garden, but no-one was buying his products, because so many others were growing vegetables too. Other projects include bricklaying, vending and brewing, but customers few.

The affected parents also include elderly people caring for grandchildren and child-headed families.

Morris Johwezha, a human rights activist in the area said: “The school should have engaged the parents before taking this cruel action. There is need for a good relationship between the community and the school, yet the school has declared a total war against parents.”

Jeremiah Bamu from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said: “This is gross violation of the right to education as enshrined in Section 81(1) (f), which states that, every child has the right to education.”

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