Parents give school ultimatum

HARARE - St Paul's Musami High, an iconic Roman Catholic school is in turmoil over alleged theft of funds.

Irate parents are now threatening to withdraw their children by this weekend if a ragging war between the parents and a deputy headmaster at the school located in Murehwa area is unresolved by then.

The chaos, which has drawn in the Education ministry and teachers’ union body Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), threatens to affect students writing examinations.

Deputy headmaster Antony Shoniwa is on trial for alleged misuse of school funds but has also won a labour court order reinstating him to his job, a move that has irked parents.

School headmaster Richard Hlobe and Shoniwa all refused to comment citing state laws that prevent government workers from speaking to the press.

School Development Association (SDA) chairperson, Paul Kandawasvika told the Daily News parents were demanding that the ministry of Education reassigns Shoniwa, accused of misappropriating over $2 500 meant for sports uniforms.

“This coming Sunday we will demonstrate at the school and demand our money from Shoniwa,” said Kandawasvika.

“We are not against him being a teacher but not at our school. His coming back after suspension compromises the situation.

“How does he teach or interact with the same pupils who are still to testify against him in the theft trial,” said Kandawasvika.

Flanked by the SDA deputy secretary, Francis Muronda, he gave the Daily News a copy of a handwritten petition from parents, which he claimed was handed to the ministry of Education.

“The minister and the Public Service Commission are aware but they agreed to put the lives of our children in danger by bringing back the same person we have demanded should leave.

“The safety of our children is under threat and as parents and guardians we have an obligation to protect them.

“Our actions are therefore aimed at doing just that,” said Kandawasvika.

Education minister David Coltart confirmed receiving the petition, adding investigations were underway.

“I can confirm I have seen the petition and we are busy investigating. You should understand these are allegations and justice should take its course,” said Coltart.

“I would not want to comment much but we are working to resolve the situation for the benefit of the children,” Coltart said.

On the threat by parents to withdraw children from the school, Coltart said it would be unfortunate if parents withdrew children from the school.

“We need cool heads to deal with this kind of situation and anything precipitous would be very unfortunate.

“Even though I agree that a solution has to be found as a matter of urgency, I find myself in a very tricky situation,” said Coltart.

“On one hand I have to feel for the parents and their children as well as see to it that the accused teacher gets his right to respond and be accorded justice,” said Coltart.

However, PTUZ secretary general Raymond Majongwe said Shoniwa was being victimised.

“The chaos and anarchy at the school does not help anyone. It is really an unfortunate issue of bad blood and breakdown of relations between the teacher and some ministry officials,” said Majongwe.

“We need sober heads. At the moment he is supposed to go back to work because he got a reprieve from the labour court but some people are frustrating his return,” Majongwe said.

Following relative stability following the formation of the fragile coalition government three years ago, the education sector has been facing problems that include shambolic handling of public examinations.

Early this week, the Daily News reported that ‘O’ level examinations had been disrupted at St Peter’s Kubatana School in Glen-Norah while yesterday we reported that the Roman Catholic Church’s Masvingo diocese-run schools had been dragged to court for underpaying workers.

The workers have since won a $1million award at the court of arbitration.

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