School accounts merging illegal: Prof Mavima
PRIMARY and Secondary Education Minister Professor Paul Mavima last week said it is illegal for schools to merge the School Development Association (SDA) and School Services Funds (SSF) as the provisions of Statutory Instrument 87 of 1992 are still standing.
SI 87 of 1992 prescribes that “the levy shall be handled by committees selected by parents, SDC and the school head, deputy head and the senior teacher would also form part”.
Tensions are reportedly rising between School Development Committees (SDCs) and headmasters in schools that are insisting on merging levies and tuition fees, raising fears that this will likely affect the smooth administration of the affected institutions.
Initially, the initiative to merge the funds was driven by former Primary and Secondary Education Minister, Dr Lazarus Dokora, who argued that this was likely to improve transparency and accountability.
However, most schools decided to ignore the directive as it was not backed by any statute or circular from Government.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail last week, Prof Mavima said the SDA and SSF must be separate.
“The issue of merging SDA and SSF accounts should not cause any confusion in any school because the status quo has not been changed. The status quo remains — SDA and SSF are separate as the Statutory Instrument is still there.
“The only change will take place after the amendment of the Education Act, so this confusion must end since the Education Act was never amended.”
He added: “There is no directive that was given to that effect and if you go to any school, there was no such directive, the status quo remains. There is nothing that has changed at law. SDAs are still running their accounts separately.
“There was no formal directive from the ministry. Dr Dokora and myself were not in a position to give that directive. The Permanent Secretary is the only one who could write that official communication to schools, but nothing like that was ever communicated. . .
“To those who merged accounts, they are doing so illegally. Schools are supposed to follow SI 87 of 1992.
“Any changes will be officially communicated,” he said.
According to information gathered by The Sunday Mail, some schools, especially those in Harare province, had merged the accounts. Schools in Mbare and Hatfield have been affected the most.
Sources said before Prof Mavima made a pronouncement on the issue last week, Mbare and Hatfield District Schools Inspector (DIS), Mr Absolome Chinoona reportedly called some Government and SDA bursars and told them that their schools’ accounts could only be de-merged after they receive a circular from the ministry.
However, Prof Mavima said it wasn’t necessary for Government to issue a circular on the matter considering that in the first place, the mergers were never approved through a circular.
But Mr Chinoona said in an interview last week: “It was an instruction from the ministry. It is not our district only, it is being done in most schools. However, it will be best to contact the Provincial District Office for comment. I cannot comment further on that matter.
“There is nothing we can do. As you are aware, we have different people with different perceptions who are running our schools. We cannot tell a school how to run its affairs. We are waiting for an instruction from authorities on the way forward.”
Harare Provincial Education Director (PED), Mr Christopher Kateera said schools that had merged the accounts could have done so through Section 38 of the Education Act.
“I cannot comment on that issue, just look for the Education Act, Section 38, and do your research as a journalist. Those who acted could probably have acted on that Section,” he said.
Section 38 states that, “Subject to Section 14, all fees paid for educational facilities provided by the Government or for accommodation in connection therewith shall be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund.”
But sources said those who insist on merging the accounts are continuously throwing a curve ball to SDCs in a desperate move to maintain the condemned arrangement as the cited law is limited to school fees, not levies.
It is believed that at some schools such as Houghton Park Primary School in Harare, among others, tensions — occasioned by the clashes between the SDCs and the school heads — have become untenable.