By Felex Share
PARENTS stormed an examination room at St Peters Kubatana High School in Highfield yesterday protesting against the barring of their children from writing exams over non-payment of tuition fees.
They reportedly bulldozed their way into the school’s Great Hall where an O-Level Shona Paper 1 final exam was being written. The parents allegedly manhandled the deputy headmaster Mr Simbarashe Mavetera who had barred the pupils from writing the paper.
Harare provincial education director Mr Calvin Mazula confirmed the incident. He said he had ordered an investigation into the issue.
“It is true that there were some disturbances involving parents and school authorities, but I am yet to get a full report from the district education officer who went on the ground.”
Mr Mazula said it appeared that one of the parents was not happy with a payment plan she was offered. He said she then approached the examination hall while shouting. “It appears the issue was overdramatised,” he said.
“Schools must not send away pupils because the contract for writing examinations is between Zimsec and the pupil.”
Teachers at St Peters’ Kubatana said the parents left the school only after Mr Mavetera gave them assurances that he would no longer turn away the pupils.
They waited until the pupils were readmitted into the exam room before leaving.
Pupils owe the Roman Catholic school between US$250 and US$300 each. Teachers said Mr Mavetera started turning away defaulting pupils on Monday when they were writing English Paper 1.
The affected pupils were only admitted into the exam room on Monday after about 30 minutes and this prompted them to bring their parents to school yesterday.
“As usual, the deputy (head) chased away the pupils, unfortunately for him some of the defaulting pupils had brought their parents after what had happened on Monday,” said a teacher who declined to be named.
“Some pupils rushed back home and brought their parents. The parents entered the Great Hall where the examination was being written and addressed the candidates, clearly outlining the Government policy that no one should be turned away for non-payment of school fees.”
The teacher said the parents approached Mr Mavetera demanding an explanation on the turning away of their children.
“Mr Mavetera did not respond politely and this angered the parents who harassed him and took off his tie. The situation only calmed after he agreed to re-admit the pupils,” he said.
Another teacher said the chaos disrupted the examination.
“The parents entered the examination room when the examination was about to start. This was unfair to other pupils who paid their school fees,” he said.
Interviewed parents said they were aware of Government policy and would not allow their children to be sent away over failure to pay school fees. Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister David Coltart said school authorities should not turn away pupils over non-payment of tuition fees.
He said the schools could only withhold the examination results until the pupils cleared the arrears.
“The Government policy is that no child eligible to write the examinations should be sent away. Any headmaster doing this will be in breach of the policy and will face disciplinary action,” said Minister Coltart.
He said parents should engage district education officers instead of confronting school authorities.
“I don’t support parents and guardians who disrupt exams for other innocent pupils,” said Minister Coltart.
“If they do not find any joy at the district level they should approach provincial offices and subsequently the permanent secretary’s office.”
There are several reports of schools barring pupils from writing public examinations because of outstanding levies and fees. The Herald
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