‘Education now preserve of the rich’

AS the first term opens today, parents and guardians in the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces have raised concern over the skyrocketing cost of education and the strike by teachers.

BY STEPHEN CHADENGA/DUDUZILE NDLUKULWANI/COLIN CRAIG MOYO

Back to school scramble as students load their luggage on buses yesterday at the Bulawayo City Hall car park ahead of the 2019 first school term opening today

Those who spoke to Southern Eye yesterday said they were grappling with not only exorbitant fees, school uniforms and books, but the possibility of sending children to classrooms where there are no teachers, as the latter have vowed to down tools, demanding better salaries and working conditions.

Teachers’ associations have said their members would down tools if their salaries did not come in United States dollars.

A parent from Ascot Infill in Gweru, James Chiseko, said despite the difficulties he faced in preparing for his daughter, who is going for Form 1 at a local school, he feared that the effort could be a waste of resources.

“I had to fork out almost $1 000 for fees, uniforms and books for my daughter, but now my worst fears are whether children are going to get down to learning business with the looming strike by teachers,” he said.

Another parent, David Mushangwe, said it was difficult to make decisions for schoolchildren, as there was uncertainty with the pending labour unrest.

He said although he sympathised with the teachers, as a parent, he also feared making efforts that might not bear fruit.

“It’s their (teachers) right to demand better working conditions, but I am also looking at what I have invested for my children in preparing for them as schools open,” Mushangwe said.

“As parents, we might make all efforts to pay the fees, buy expensive books and uniforms, but at the end of the day, our children face the possibility of not learning or even being sent away from school.”

Janet Mpofu from Mkoba suburb said she would only pay fees after following developments on threats by teachers to embark on industrial action.

If teachers go on strike today, they would join doctors who downed tools on December 1 last year, with a likelihood that the rest of the civil service might join in and paralyse government operations.

Milton Nyamarebvu from Bulawayo, whose child is enrolled at JZ Moyo High School, said: “Things are tough as we have to queue in banks for the little money from which we expect to buy stationery, uniforms, pay transport fares and being forced to buy more groceries than the previous year as we fear our children will be starved at schools.”

Nomvelo Ncube also chipped in, saying: “We have to ensure that they [pupils] go with the first buses availed by the schools, as we fear that they may travel late due to fuel queues and again, it is tough to secure a seat in a school bus as these seats are only availed to the students who have fully paid their school fees.”

Another guardian, Mxolisi Dliwayo, said: “The opening of schools has been a tough time for me, as I came from Gwanda and had to pay $20 to get my child onto the school buses in Bulawayo at the City Hall.”

Lisa Ndlovu, a parent of a student at Empandeni High School, said she had to make use of her skills as a tailor to ensure that her child had a uniform.

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