By Vusumuzi Dube and Sandra Tekere
Schools in Bulawayo and Matabeleland North are barring pupils from registering for the November Zimsec public examinations demanding that they settle school fees arrears first.
Investigations revealed that at some schools in Bulawayo, school officials are diverting money meant for examination registration to cover the fees arrears and then order the pupils to tell parents to look for the money for examination fees.
Each Ordinary Level subject costs $15 and $26 is needed per Advanced Level subject. Parents expressed outrage at the conduct of the schools saying it showed that the schools did not care about the education of their children and only wanted their money.
“I had to register my child as a private candidate at another school because they wanted to convert the exam fee to school fees.
What pained me is that even after negotiating that I would pay the required school fees in a month’s time they would have none of it. While I agree that we have to pay fees, the schools cannot hold us at ransom by ruining our children’s future, these schools should be considerate,” said a parent who identified himself as Mr Ndlovu.
Another parent said there was need for the Government to come up with a deliberate policy regarding the registration of pupils and ensure schools do not bar pupils from sitting their exams.
“As parents we are not running away from our responsibilities but school authorities should also understand that these are trying times, the money is just not there,” said the parent who declined to be named.
In Matabeleland North parents with children at a secondary school in Umguza District said the school has told them that their children will not be able to register unless they settle their fees arrears. They said most of them were struggling as they were peasant farmers who are still to harvest their crops which they hope to sell and raise the money.
“We do not have the money to cover debts we owe the school, most of us are peasant farmers, the money we have is not enough to clear debts and at the same time pay the exam fees,” said a parent whose son is learning at the school.
He said the focus for most parents was to try and run around to raise the examination fees as the due dates were approaching.
“At least the school can withhold the results and not what they are doing to refuse our kids the chance to register.”
Contacted for comment Chief Ndodo of Mbembesi where the school is located blasted the school for trying to disadvantage people in the community.
“The policy is not fair as the school is said to be diverting exam fees without the concern of the parents. Most of these parents struggle to raise money. Does the school want to under develop the area?,” he said.
Deputy Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Professor Paul Mavhima said while the move by the schools could be judged as being unfair, the onus was parents to pay school fees as it was the schools fees that helped provide the infrastructure where the school children will use to prepare for the examinations.
“Parents should not be selfish, they should realise that school fees are meant to improve the school’s infrastructure, and it is this infrastructure which the children rely on to produce good results in these very examinations they should be registering for.
“What parents should be doing now is engaging the schools so that they make payment plans to pay off what they owe in school fees arrears. Parents must realise that it is unfair for the schools also to teach their children for free, knowing that money is required to maintain the infrastructure and provide better services,” said Prof Mavhima.
He called upon School Development Councils to create a bridge between parents and school authorities which would ensure that possible impasses are resolved and a positive way forward is derived which will accommodate both the school and pupils.
“At this moment I believe parents should realise that schools are not fighting them they are just calling on parents to commit themselves to paying what they owe,” he said.
Zimbabwe Schools Development Associations secretary-general, Mr Everisto Jongwe said schools should realise that according to Government policy, pupils should not be left to suffer by barring them to register for their exams.
“As an association we don’t encourage parents to just let their children go to school without paying their school fees but on the other hand we are saying schools should not forget Government’s policy that school children should not be made to suffer, school authorities should allow the pupils to register then deal with parents to recover what they owe.
“However, parents on their part must ensure that they communicate with their respective schools while there is still time and draw up payment plans because while we understand that the economic situation is not conducive for everyone they still have a mandate to pay for their children’s education,” said Mr Jongwe.
He said for now the parents with affected children should approach their respective SDCs and if they fail to recourse they can then approach the national association.
“In the event that people hit a brick wall they can then approach us and we talk to the Ministry so we map a way forward.”
A couple of weeks ago Zimsec extended the November Ordinary and Advanced level public examinations registration deadline from March 30 to April 21 following an outcry from parents that schools had told them about the closing date about two weeks before the cut-off date, hence making it difficult for them to mobilise the required money. Sunday News