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Government should take full responsibility


Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora has reiterated he will not reverse ministry policy that legal action is taken against parents defaulting in school fees payment.

NewsDay Editorial

His thinking is based perhaps on the assumption that parents sign some contract with schools in which they pledge to pay fees for their children.

The minister reinforces the existence of the contract by telling school heads not to send away children whose fees have not been paid.

Dokora, however, doesn’t say what should happen in situations where parents simply do not have the money — and this is very common in today’s Zimbabwe.

Rural communities find it extremely difficult to lay their hands even on a few dollars since the dollarisation of the economy in 2009. Commerce in the rural areas is mostly through barter.

In the past families were prepared to sell their livestock to send their children to school. But successive droughts depleted herds in most communal areas.
Most families simply don’t own any livestock. The successive poor rainy seasons have also affected yields with most households failing just to feed themselves.

The situation is not any different in the urban areas, what with the level of unemployment and the failure of companies to pay their employees.

Most workers have had their earnings cut, if they are lucky to have kept their jobs. The little money they make is mostly used for food, rentals and transport.

Dokora’s policy hasn’t taken cognisance of this. He seems to think that parents are merely playing truant in their duty to educate their children.

True, there must be some irresponsible parents somewhere, but that is the exception rather than the norm. If these can be smoked out, they deserve to have legal action taken against them.

Dokora’s policy puts parents and guardians in a fix; they either have to withdraw their children from school or lose the little property they possess. Faced with such a stark choice, most will simply take their children out of school.

But that will create a big social problem. No country wishes to see its children roaming the streets with nothing to do. In the rural areas a lot of ugly things will follow, such as early and forced marriages for the girl child.

It is not the parents who have caused this situation to arise. Government has over the years presided over the collapse of our once vibrant economy.
The frightening rate of unemployment is a result of bad governance and those in the corridors of power should admit this.

The situation cannot be corrected by punishing families through the messenger of court. Education is a basic human right and it is the duty of government to educate its youth.

The education sector can only be saved if government assumes its full responsibility to educate our children.

The so-called mega-deals that President Robert Mugabe is supposed to have clinched in China should have had an education funding component similar to the successful Education Transition Fund. No development can ever come to a country with an uneducated populace.

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