BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
PARENTS of Form One pupils yesterday called on the government to intervene and stop school authorities from swindling them of their money by demanding mandatory purchase of “overpriced” uniforms at their institutions.
Parents interviewed by NewsDay said most schools enrolled students on condition they purchased uniforms from them.
They also complained that schools were demanding many sets of uniforms, which unnecessarily strained them financially.
A survey conducted by NewsDay showed that most boarding schools were charging between US$400 and US$600 for complete sets of school uniforms, prices which are way above the prices charged on the open market.
“Depending on my affordability as a parent, I may want to buy my child’s school uniforms over a certain period of time but due to the mandatory demand that I buy at the school, I am forced to buy the uniforms at once, which strains me economically,” said Lancelot Mukuze, a parent.
Another parent, Edison Sibanda suggested that the prices of school uniforms be regulated.
“There is no problem for one-stop buying of uniforms at schools, but they must charge reasonable prices. Schools are charging three times higher than that of the market prices. At one school, a skirt is pegged at US$20, which can be bought for around US$5 from the open market.”
A school head who spoke to NewsDay on condition of anonymity defended the practice, saying it enhanced uniformity at schools, regardless of the pupils’ economic backgrounds.
“Supplying uniforms at schools is done to ensure that pupils don’t bring their own undesirable attires which are not part of the recommended school uniform. That is why we engage suppliers so that they provide standard uniforms.
“If we allow pupils to buy uniforms on their own, each one of them will bring their own desired brands, which may be different in colour and style, and then we will end up having many uniforms at one school,” he said.
Zimbabwe National Teachers’ Union (Zinatu) chief executive officer, Manuel Nyawo said it was ironic that school authorities were selling uniforms in United States dollars when teachers, who constitute a significant number of parents and guardians of the pupils at schools, were being paid in local currency.
“We have received several complaints from teachers and parents that they are being ripped off their hard-earned cash by unscrupulous and corrupt school heads who are conniving with local uniform suppliers. The worst is that some of these heads are part of the syndicate of suppliers of these uniforms who are influencing the decision to force desperate parents to buy uniforms from their schools,” Nyawo said.
Efforts to get a comment from Primary and Secondary Education Cain Mathema were fruitless as his mobile phone went unanswered yesterday.
Primary and Secondary Education ministry secretary Tumisang Thabela referred questions to the ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro, whose mobile phone was not reachable.
- Follow Miriam on Twitter @FloMangwaya