by VENERANDA LANGA
CHILD rights group, Tag a Life (Tali), yesterday appeared before Parliament to lobby for free education for poor children, as well as to pressure government to come up with a plan to implement free basic education for all within three years.
Tali executive director, Nyaradzo Mashayamombe said her organisation had to petition Parliament for free education after noting that schools were demanding part payment of tuition fees, levies and that children purchase school uniforms first before getting a place.
“Soon after the 2017 transition from former President Robert Mugabe to President Emmerson Mnangagwa we were very clear that we wanted the children’s agenda to be prioritised, and that the Primary and Secondary Education minister Paul Mavima should release a circular allowing children who cannot afford school fees to be allowed to attend school.
“We want government to remove those barriers and allow all children to have access to education because the existing circular 5 of 2009 says children should not be sent away from school for failure to pay (fees), but it failed to speak for children out of school so that government ensures that they also go back to school,” Mashayamombe said.
“It should be made illegal for children to be removed from school if they cannot pay fees because section 27 and 75 of the Constitution stipulate that it is the responsibility of government to ensure every child has access to basic education,” she said.
Mashayamombe said Zimbabwe was the only country in southern Africa which did not offer free basic education, adding that it was high time government came up with a specific plan to ensure it was implemented.
She further noted that it was possible to tax businesses to get funds to support the free basic education programme.
“The problem is that currently 90% of the education budget goes to teachers’ salaries. However, government needs to realise that it is their responsibility to ensure all children are at school, and they should come up with a clear plan by 2021 for free education for all,” Mashayamombe said.
Child rights practitioner with the Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children (ZNCWC) Maxim Marungweni said the issues raised by Mashayamombe were a collective voice by civic society groups operating in the country.
“The focus should not only be on children already at school. Government must also facilitate re-entry for children out of school so that they enjoy their rights to free basic education in line with Agenda 2030 that Zimbabwe should be a middle income country (by 2030),” Marungweni said.