The article by Takura Zhangazha on school development Authorities (SDAs) deserves a response in order for various views to be explored and hopefully progressive decisions to be made.
First and foremost we need to encourage each other to clearly define the real problems at hand.
From his article, it is my understanding that he is lambasting SDAs as bad institutions or a bad idea.
He arrives at this conclusion because, among other reasons, in some SDAs there have been corrupt tendencies and also because they are charging levies beyond the means of most parents.
My point of departure is, is the problem solely to do with the SDAs as institutions or it is generally to do with corruption among us and also how we, as parents (principals), manage the people (agents) whom we mandate to act on our behalf?
For instance, how are we allowing SDAs to charge levies beyond our reach when the SDA is made up of individuals appointed by the same parents to conduct matters on their behalf? Are we not contradicting ourselves?
The issue of our children’s education needs serious introspection by most Zimbabweans (particularly black) parents on how we manage the same.
In my view, we rightly require the best educational standards for our children, but are neither prepared to pay for it nor contribute towards it non-financially.
Most of us strongly believe that the education of our children is the responsibility of either the government and/or the school administration where the child attends school.
Our duty, the parents claim is to “send” the child to school. Admittedly the government has to do a great deal in providing adequate resources.
However, I must quickly point out that these resources are largely parents’ money which we allow it (government) to collect from us through taxes and so on to enable the government to reinvest the funds for the common good.
As for SDAs, we need to devise means of withdrawing our mandate from the people (individuals or as a group/party) whom we place into position(s) to govern on our behalf.
Over the last 15 years the government has failed us on this important mandate and SDAs have thus come to the fore as parents had to step in to stop the rot.
It is my observation that most black (with respect) parents do not attend meetings.
It is always the same few parents who attend and obviously make up the membership of the SDAs or final decision-making from the SDA meetings.
Budgets are made and approved at AGMs or EGMs where maybe only 20% of parents are present.
Their decisions are binding to all and it is important to highlight this legal fact to all parents, Zhangazha included.
It is my understanding that all proposals are approved by the relevant education ministry, thus there is adequate oversight.
Generally parents do not pay levies and give the excuse that SDA demands are out of reach.
However, they even fail to pay even a dollar. The question is then if the figure is too high why not pay what you can and negotiate for a write-off the balance if at all that is possible?
Is not paying completely and ducking and diving the best way to manage your child’s education?
It is also said that when school trips come around it is the defaulting parents who are the first to pay their children’s fares which in some cases could be more than twice the two terms’ levies. We start to question our priorities.
Similarly, few black parents care to check and interract with school administrators; they rarely do anything about monitoring their child’s progress outside of the scheduled consultation days.
Even on consultation days, it is generally the mothers who attend.
I recently attended a meeting that was meant for incoming Form One parents and pupils.
We waited 45 minutes after scheduled commencement time hoping more parents had only been delayed.
That was a correct observation as a lot came late, but suffice to say only about 10-15% in total were present (even after the waiting) at the meeting.
What boggles the mind is how responsible parents can miss such a valuable opportunity, particularly at a new school for their beloved child, to interact with the administrators (strangers who are going to be looking after their children) so that they can share expectations and lay down the ground rules for the ensuing partnership.
Moreover, many of us must ask ourselves when was the last time we watched our children participate in sporting, social or cultural activities at school.
Most of us are so busy that we only drop off and pick up these vastly talented poor souls.
It is even too much to ask for a parent to attend or bring a child to any activity that their child is affiliated to but is not participating in on the particular day.
This could be a legacy issue in our black community as I experienced this even in my schooling days:
despite being a first-team player for most sports I used to participate in, my parents never attended a single match, even though my mother was and still is a house-wife.
In my view, we must be honest with ourselves, diagnose our real issues and avoid looking for scapegoats. I believe the key responsibility for our children’s education lies with the parents or guardians.
We must involve ourselves a lot more than we are doing. We must attend meetings and be heard. We must be able to remove those people who misrepresent us or mismanage our resources/affairs or abuse our mandate.
In keeping with our recognition of collective responsibility, where we have been out-voted by those agreeing to higher levies than we can afford, we should at least pay an amount within our means and seek an understanding from our colleagues.
Surely failing to pay anything whatsoever claiming that the set figure is too high is heinous and downright irresponsible?