Chaos as Zanu PF closes urban schools

HARARE - Chaos and confusion reigned within the education sector yesterday after President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF party forced the early closure of primary and secondary schools in Harare to accommodate its “elective” congress scheduled for next week.

Affected schools in Harare complained bitterly that their programmes, which were due to run until next week, including prize-giving events and end-of-year functions, had been curtailed prematurely by Zanu PF.

The situation was worse for parents who had to pick up their children from boarding schools as they had not planned for schools closing early.

In addition, most schools who were affected by the early closures could not issue end of term reports to children as they had expected to do this next week.

While Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora was unreachable for comment yesterday, his deputy Paul Mavhima told the Daily News that only Harare and Bulawayo schools closed yesterday, while schools dates remain unchanged for other schools in the rest of the country.

“There are special circumstances. That is all you need to know and these arise anytime.  The (affected) school days are just three. The last day is normally used for cleaning so they are easy to compensate.

“We can say one hour is added per week during the next term, but the discretion lies with the teachers,” Mavhima said.

But Sylvia Utete-Masango, permanent secretary in the ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, stated categorically yesterday that schools in Harare closed early because of the Zanu PF congress, while Bulawayo schools were closing early because of the African Youth Games being hosted in the city.

Opposition parties described the move to shut down Harare and Bulawayo schools as a “gross abuse of public office”.

“It is an infantile gesture that is characteristic of the ambush policy and decision-making of Zanu PF,” said Jacob Mafume, spokesperson of the United Movement for Democratic Change (UMDC).

“Dokora has proved to be the worst minister we have had, presiding over the worst exam leakages in history.

“He is not a danger to himself but a tragedy for our unsuspecting children who are subjected to his suicidal kamikaze mis-education methods. One wonders who should be  at school, the students or the minister himself,” he said.

It is understood that Zanu PF asked that Harare schools close early so that workers could renovate some of the schools’ buildings in preparation for the annual get-together of the party’s luminaries and provincial officials.

The Zanu PF congress runs from December 2-7.

Furious parents who spoke to Daily News yesterday described the move as “scandalous”.

One parent said: “I paid fees for the whole term. Saka (So) is the ruling party going to refund me, tell me?”

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) acting secretary-general Gideon Shoko said the closure was “wrong.”

“If they wanted to close earlier, they should have informed the relevant people on time. It is being treated like an emergency, as if the congress was not known to be coming.

“That is being irresponsible by the government and party. In future, they should plan ahead and together with the education sector. The problem is that they do not want to sit down with anyone except to dictate,” Shoko added.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said, “It is terrible that people who should plan ahead are acting in this manner. Imagine, there are children who come in from outside this country for example.  It affects teachers schedule and takes our education off-rail.

“But the bigger question is how they are going to compensate these children and parents. These are the same children who lost five days last year (during elections) and are now losing seven school days.”

He said the country should not be forced to freeze because of a Zanu PF congress.

The Zanu PF congress next week comes as pressure is mounting on Mugabe to announce his exit plan as his current term ticks towards its expiry in 2018.

Mugabe, 91 next February, has said he wants to retire and write books.

But the long-ruling leader has just purged, again, ambitious politicians positioning themselves to succeed him.

Comments (2)

Idiotic ZANU PF. What have schools got to do with your f***ng congress!!!

Garikayi - 1 December 2014

Early closure of schools in Harare is welcome especially in the wake of potential disturbances at the Congress. Its safer for our children.

Mhizvo - 1 December 2014

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