Free education ‘political banter’: Analysts

An empty classroom

GOVERNMENT’s recent move to introduce free education beginning this term has been dismissed by analysts and opposition politicians as “political banter” meant to hoodwink the electorate ahead of this year’s polls.

The analysts said the programme was unsustainable as Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s 2023 national budget statement did not make provisions for it.

Ncube last month told Parliament that the programme would need more time to implement.

In his vote for the Primary and Secondary Education ministry, Ncube allocated $631,3 billion (US$976 million) towards providing quality infant, junior and secondary education.

The bulk of the allocation will, however, go towards teachers’ salaries and other learning costs.

Former Education minister and Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) interim treasurer David Coltart told NewsDay that the “free education” banter was a well-calculated strategy by the Zanu PF government to capture the electorate.

“They can only roll out free education if they have a budget to support it. An analysis of the budget shows that it is a ridicule budget and we have seen that education in real terms is relegated and made subordinate to the Office of the President and Cabinet, and the budget for rural areas,” Coltart said.

“Unless budget allocates sufficient money for school fees to be supported, there can be no genuine rollout of free education. We know from past years that the actual money allocated to education is generally way below, so there is no indication that anything will change.”

Economist Gift Mugano said free education was not economically feasible.

“The first question would be, is it really in motion? Where I am coming from, is that already the teachers are not being paid decent salaries and parents are taking the burden to sustain the teachers,” Mugano said.

“Salaries are not going up, we cannot talk of free education when we cannot pay teachers well. The Finance minister has said they will pay for three teachers’ children, not to talk of the whole country.”

The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union said: “The Constitution and the Education Act mandate the State to facilitate unhindered access to education for all children regardless of income or household status. Basic Education Assistance Module contradicts the spirit of free education.”

In 2020, President Emmerson Mnangagwa signed into law the Education Amendment Act which compels the State to provide free basic education in line with provisions of section 27 of the Constitution.

Education deputy minister Edgar Moyo was quoted in the State media on Tuesday saying the rollout of the free education scheme would be gradual.

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