PARLIAMENT has poked holes into Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s 2021 budget allocation for the Primary and Secondary Education ministry after he allocated $55 billion towards education, 73% of which will be gobbled by employment costs.
BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA/NQOBANI NDLOVU
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga (MDC-T) tore into Ncube’s allocation to the ministry despite kneeling before him in the National Assembly handing him two T-shirts which depict the Ncube and Madyira totems thanking him for allocating a budget for pregnant schoolgirls and sanitary wear.
The committee said the 2021 Primary and Secondary Education ministry budget had weaknesses in that out of the $55 billion allocation, only 27% would go towards non-salary obligations, which would leave parents who are already grappling with the effects of COVID-19, heavily burdened with the responsibility of taking care of children’s educational needs.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga also said that the $1,1 billion, which Ncube allocated for the school feeding programme, was inadequate to feed the millions of children who face starvation due to drought and the COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown.
“If you look at the issues to do with comparison of the 2020 versus the 2021 budget and if you look at the $55 billion, it does look like it is a lot of money, but if you do a calculation in terms of the percentage of what we got to gross domestic product (GDP), you will find that, in fact, the allocation has gone down,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga
“I know that the minister was trying to juggle between education and health, but the difference is that in terms of health, he moved a little nearer (to the Abuja Declaration), but in terms of education where we have the Dakar Declaration, we really went down.
“We say so particularly because the year 2021 is going to have more complications than we had in 2020. If you remember in 2020 we did not have teaching at school because we had a lockdown from March up to September. That is a bit of a concern,” she said.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga added: “However, of most concern is the issue that of that $55 billion, 73% has gone to employment costs and only 27% has gone towards non-salary items. What it means is that the burden for taking children to school still remains with the parents who have suffered the big impact of COVID-19 and have not been able to get disposable incomes that they normally used to have.”
She expressed dismay that Ncube only allocated $144 million for COVID-19 mitigation at schools, which she said was inadequate to fight the pandemic.
Meanwhile, teachers’ unions have called on the Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema to forego the final year examinations for non-final year students as schools grapple with COVID-19.
They said e-learning was a failure due to lack of data and connectivity, as well as information communication technology gadgets in some areas.
“It’s very unreasonable to be evaluating learners that did not learn anything,” Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure told NewsDay yesterday.
The Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said: “We are saying that those exams should be suspended until next year. We all know that COVID-19 cases at schools are rising.”