By A Correspondent- Government has warned schools against fleecing parents by demanding fees in foreign currency and payment of incentives to teachers saying this remains illegal and a chargeable offence.
This comes amid reports that some schools demand foreign currency payments only for school fees while others demand extra money to pay teachers’ incentives for them to teach. The “pay up or your child will be ignored” mentality is widespread at many schools across the country.
Some schools reportedly indirectly pay teachers’ incentives as if the money is coming from School Development Committee funds when it is charged on parents. Teachers at some schools are making a killing through incentives averaging US$5 per month for each pupil despite Government ban on the practice.
On top of the incentives, parents are also expected to pay for extra lessons which are sometimes conducted during school hours as some teachers knock off early to teach from home where they are paid between US$5 and US$10 per child.
In an interview at Chamabondo 2 Primary School which is under construction in Victoria Falls last week, Primary and Secondary Education Deputy Minister Edgar Moyo reiterated that incentives were illegal and schools should follow laid down procedures on school fees. He said the responsibility of paying teachers lies with Government while those schools that peg their fees in foreign currency should use the official rate.
“First of all schools know what procedures to follow when applying for schools fees and we want to implore them to do exactly that. There is also the issue of incentives, incentives are illegal and are an unnecessary burden on the already overburdened parents. Some circulars have been issued to the effect that no teacher or school should charge parents or students any incentives because the responsibility of paying teachers lies with Government and therefore we would like to encourage system to follow that,” said Dep Minister Moyo.
He said parents should be allowed to use mobile money, swipe or transfer as well as in local cash currency.
Schools close next week when the first term ends.
“When they use US$ as an anchor currency for the fees, they need to use the auction exchange rate and not the black market rates. We are not looking at our schools becoming some fuel for inflation in the economy.
“We have heard about those hiding behind SDCs to charge incentives and we are currently investigating, actually there are a lot of schools that are currently under investigation. You may be aware that the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Unit is also investigating that issue and we hope after the investigations we will be able to come up with a position as to what to do next,” said the Deputy Minister.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister Moyo said Government is worried about overcrowding in some of the country’s schools in the wake of Covid-19. Prior to the global pandemic the country had a schools backlog of about 3 000 and this has risen to an estimated 4 500 schools needed for effective observance of social distancing.
Deputy Minister Moyo is on a countrywide tour of learning institutions to assess the state of affairs as well as monitor progress in the construction of some schools funded through Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) as Government strives to speed up the projects to be able to decongest.
Some of the projects had stalled because of lack of funding and Covid-19 disturbances and the visits are meant to re-energise construction and completion. Chamabondo 2 Primary School, whose construction started in 2005 and it is yet to be completed. The school is expected to ease congestion at Chamabondo Primary whose enrolment is more than 1 500 and Chinotimba Primary which has over 1 600 pupils, putting learners at the risk of spreading or contracting coronavirus.
“The purpose is to appreciate infrastructure deficit as we also look at issues to do with decongesting some of our schools in the face of Covid-19 restrictions regarding social distancing which is a real problem,” said Deputy Minister Moyo.
One of the key pillars of National Development Strategy (NDS1) is infrastructure development and it is in pursuit of that objective to achieve requisite infrastructure for schools that Government seeks to resuscitate and energize construction projects.-statemedia