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‘There is no provision for free education’ – Govt backtracks on ED promise

Despite President Emmerson Mnangagwa promising free education last year, his government has finally come out in the open, backtracking on his pledge saying “there is no provision for free education.”

In March last year, the President promised that his government would roll-out free education starting in 2023.

“Against the foregoing and starting next year, the government will push for a phased access to universal free education wholly funded by the State,” Mnangagwa said.

“We must make primary education free and universal next year, in 2023. This entails more than the government just taking over payment of school fees for all pupils in primary school.

“It means meeting the full costs of transiting to a new dispensation where technology mediates learning. Each primary school-going child has to have access to a tablet at government expense.”

On Wednesday, Highfield East legislator Erick Murai asked the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Dr Evelyn Ndlovu why she was pushing for parents to pay school fees for their children when the government promised free education.

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“Thank you very much Hon. Speaker. My supplementary question to the Minister is that in 2008, 2013, 2018 towards elections, the Government came up with a policy that there shall be free education for all.

“Now, I am deeply disturbed that the Minister is saying we must come up with a payment plan for school fees when it is on record that the Government said there must be free education for all. Can the Hon. Minister clarify on that? Where is the free education for all Hon. Minister?”

Accordingly, the Minister responded citing that, in the Constitution, there is provision for State funded education and not free education.

“I will restate that again that in terms of Section 75 of the Constitution, there is provision for State funded education and not free education. Subsection 1 (a) and (b) speak to the qualifications of one to benefit from State funded education and it speaks to primary and secondary students and further education in subsection 1 (b) Subsection 4 of the Constitution then speaks to how that is going to be realized and it says, I may not say the words verbatim but the import of subsection 4 says that the Government shall take reasonable legislative measures or otherwise, within the limit thereof of its resources to realise the provision of subsection 1,” she said.

“That is what we are doing and what we have done is that two districts per province, as pilot projects for that exercise, have been identified and government is fully paying for all schools in those two districts for all the provinces.

“There is also BEAM – last year it paid for 1.5 million children and this year the target is 1.8 million children. Those children under BEAM, if they fall under the category of examinations – Grade 7, Form 4 and Form 6, their fees are wholly paid by Government.

“We also have those children who may not be under BEAM but who qualify to be BEAM beneficiaries, are also covered for their examination fees.

“Further to that, those children who may not fall within those categories but wish to write Grade 7, O’ level and A’ level examinations and may not have the means to do so, we are currently up to this Friday enlisting the names of such children for onward transmission to ZIMSEC so that they are registered and government pays for them. That is how far State funded education has gone to date,” Ndlovu added.