Par­ents fume over schools de­mands

The Manica Post - - Front Page - Ray Bande and Daniel Mhonda Post Re­porters

PAR­ENTS in Man­i­ca­land were this week left fum­ing over ir­ra­tional de­mands for stu­dent gro­ceries and bond pa­per – over and above re­cently hiked and ex­or­bi­tant school fees – by some schools in the prov­ince.

Some board­ing schools (names with­held) are de­mand­ing stu­dent gro­ceries of $300 to $500 per child while their day school coun­ter­parts have joined the band­wagon with ir­ra­tional de­mands for bond pa­per.

A ream of bond pa­per is pegged at be­tween $25 and 30.

Some schools are de­mand­ing two reams per child.

Sev­eral school heads and teach­ers con­firmed this il­le­gal prac­tice when The Man­ica Post in­quired how many reams of bond pa­pers and gro­ceries the schools wanted per child.

It also emerged this week that schools in Man­i­ca­land are geared up for the first term of 2019 with all teach­ers re­port­ing for duty de­spite calls to down tools by some teach­ers’ unions.

A par­ent with a child at a pri­mary school in Mutare said: “I paid my fees last year and my child was sent back home on Tuesday be­cause the school was de­mand­ing one bond pa­per ream. Some of the schools are still to make ap­pli­ca­tions to hike fees, and are il­le­gally re­quest­ing for school fees in kind or ma­te­rial form,” said the par­ent.

An­other par­ent with a child at a board­ing school in Chipinge had this to say: “I was re­quested by the school ad­min­is­tra­tion to make sure my child brings gro­ceries that in­clude rice, cook­ing oil and maize meal, among oth­ers. My sit­u­a­tion is dire and I can­not af­ford it, I will leave it to them to send the child back, and I will take it up from there. We are be­ing ripped-off.”

A guardian with a child at a dif­fer­ent board­ing school in the same district also said they were re­quested to buy stu­dent gro­ceries.

An­other par­ent with chil­dren at a pri­mary school in Mutare bit­terly com­plained about the re­quest to buy bond pa­per.

“We are be­ing forced to buy bond pa­per for ev­ery pupil. We un­der­stand that ECD A up to Grade One have great need for these bond sheets, but what about those that are de­mand­ing bond pa­per from ev­ery pupil from ECD A up to Grade 7?

“We only re­ceive one news­let­ter per

◆ From Page 1 term and where is the rest of the bond pa­per go­ing? We are pay­ing school fees that should cater for the sta­tionery for the school. A school with an en­rol­ment of 2 000 pupils re­ceives 2000 reams of bond pa­per, and if you mul­ti­ply 2000 by 500 sheets that are in a ream, we are talk­ing of enough sheets that can take the school up to three years.

“Are these bond pa­pers go­ing to be au­dited? Some schools are de­mand­ing two reams of bond pa­per per child and it is pure day light rob­bery. The min­istry should in­ter­vene. We are be­ing ripped-off of our hard earned few dol­lars by greedy el­e­ments run­ning these schools,” fumed the par­ent, who re­fused to be named for fear of vic­tim­i­sa­tion.

Man­i­ca­land Pro­vin­cial ed­u­ca­tion di­rec­tor Ed­ward Shumba lam­basted school heads that were in­sen­si­tive to the par­ent’s plight by mak­ing il­le­gal de­mands like stu­dent gro­ceries, floor pol­ish, reams of bond pa­per and even pri­vate sales of school uni­forms at schools.

“Stu­dents are free to buy school re­quire­ments like uni­forms wher­ever they want so long as they are uni­forms of the qual­ity and stan­dard re­quired by the school. Teach­ers or an­cil­lary staff that buy and force stu­dents to buy their uni­forms at ex­or­bi­tant prices must be warned. This is not al­lowed... and please, you stop it be­fore we catch up with you,” he said.

Mr Shumba said Govern­ment had al­lowed schools to in­crease fees af­ter agree­ing with par­ents. He said no school should re­quest sup­ple­ments from par­ents and guardians for any rea­son.

“We will only en­ter­tain school fees in­creases that have been agreed on by the par­ents, and we have com­mu­ni­cated this to the School Devel­op­ment Committees (SDCs) in the prov­ince.

“In as much as the price mad­ness con­tin­ues, schools are not al­lowed to re­quest gro­ceries from stu­dents or par­ents for any rea­son. They schools have no man­date ei­ther to charge school fees in kind as is the case with bond pa­pers. It is il­le­gal to de­mand school fees in both mon­e­tary and ma­te­rial form, and to be pre­cise that should stop,” he said.

Mr Shumba said they were con­duct­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions and those found on the wrong side the law will be pun­ished ac­cord­ingly.

“A head­mas­ter is the over­all ac­count­ing of­fi­cer, just like a chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer (CEOs) of his or her SDC. We ex­pect them to cor­rectly ad­vise par­ents on pol­icy mat­ters. It is a charge­able of­fence to vi­o­late the pol­icy. It is the school head who will face the mu­sic for de­mand­ing ex­tra sup­ple­ments on top of school fees at his or her school. Par­ents should know that they have plat­forms to raise their con­cerns, and all those ag­grieved should for­malise their com­plaints with our district of­fices,” he said.

Mr Shumba said they were wait­ing for re­ports from teams dis­patched in dif­fer­ent dis­tricts to in­ves­ti­gate the com­plaints from par­ents.

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