THE government plans to provide free education in Zimbabwe at primary level will need an additional $1 billion to cover mainly teachers’ salaries, a Cabinet minister has said.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister Ziyambi Ziyambi told State-owned media at the weekend that government would move to give effect to section 27 of the Constitution, which makes it compulsory for the State to make basic and tertiary education progressively free, with Parliament amending the Education Act when it resumes sitting in the New Year.
Primary and Secondary Education minister Paul Mavima told NewsDay yesterday that while the programme was feasible, it may take time to implement.
“We will need to raise a lot of resources. The current levies and fees paid by parents come to about a billion per year.
“You may be aware that the State has allocated $1,16 billion to education this year, the bulk of which covers salaries. The levies and fees then cover the gap that is left in administration as well as infrastructure development,” Mavima said.
With President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration publicly announcing austerity measures anchored on, tightening of expenditure, the plan to move to free education next year follows demands by the ruling Zanu PF party for government to re-introduce the national youth service programme.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube did not cater for these in his 2019 budget and instead sought to stop any quasi-fiscal activities by the State.
Mavima, however, said to fund primary education, government would need at least two thirds of the current parent contribution.
“We will need at least 70% of the current levy and school fees contribution from parents, which is between $600 000-$700 000. That would put us in good stead to roll out free primary education,” the Education minister said.
Asked if the school fees and levies being paid by parents was enough to maintain the required standards of education in the country, Mavima said government would also need to make sure there is equitable distribution of resources.
“It would be if there was equitable distribution of resources. There are schools that have been able to fund their own development. I will give you an example of St Georges at which we recently officially opened a science laboratory which would compete with any university infrastructure, you juxtapose that with our struggling schools in the rural areas then you will see what I am talking about.
“We need to find a way to equitability,” Mavima said.