THERE are so many things happening in this country which are curiously only peculiar to Zimbabwe.
One of those things is a situation we reported in our NewsDay edition yesterday in our front page story titled: Govt fees policy chokes schools.
In the story we are told that many schools are now struggling financially because of government’s sworn policy that no child shall be sent home for non-payment of school fees.
While this is a very noble stance, it is, however, being abused by parents who appear to have completely stopped paying the fees. Government insists that schools and parents should solve the matter, and some parents have clocked nearly five years without paying a cent to schools.
Government, for populist reasons is comfortable to pass the buck to the school, but we believe this is cowardice of the highest order. In our view, government should face the challenge it created because in the past when there was no such policy, things used to flow well at schools.
This is the first time that schools are now financially hamstrung by a government policy. Government should clear the mess it created and not force schools to solve a crisis they did not create.
It is quite perplexing why our dear government expects people to send their children to school for free.
Granted, the economic situation in this country Is making life difficult for many parents and guardians, but to allow their children to attend school without paying a single cent is absurd.
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Honestly, how does government expect the schools to function when they have to meet recurrent costs without money?
In the past when schools could send children home to collect fees from their parents, schools never used to face the challenges they are facing now. So, it is our considered view that government should either allow schools to send home children of parents who are defaulting or it should take over the arrears and demand the money from the parents, and see if it works.
In fact, in hindsight, government is one of those parents who are making life difficult for schools to properly function because it is failing to pay for thousands of underprivileged children it pledged to support under its Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) programme.
Late last year the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister July Moyo said thus: “Mismatch between budget disbursement and cash release: For example, under the BEAM programme, from the revised budget of ZWL$86,9 billion, cash availed to date is only ZWL$58,4 billion, leaving a balance of ZW$28,6 billion. Even the revised balance is not adequate to meet the requirements for 2023, as we are currently paying arrears for 2022. The arrears currently stand at ZWL$278 billion.”
Little wonder government is insisting that no child should be barred from attending school to avoid embarrassment because it is owing schools quite a handsome amount of money which it is struggling to pay.
Government should, therefore, not hide behind the parents. It should speak for itself and not be two-faced on this issue, by insisting on populist policies which threaten our education system.