'Do not expel students over fees'

HARARE - Government is going to issue a directive to all schools not to expel students over fees, Primary and Secondary Education minister Paul Mavima told the National Assembly yesterday after being grilled by MPs who were concerned that some schools were expelling students over fees.

Mavhima said his permanent secretary will be communicating with all schools.

“We are bound by our Constitution not to turn away students over the issue of fees. Schools must not withhold results of students because of fees payment failure. Parents and schools must make payment arrangements. I am going to direct my permanent secretary to communicate to our structures on the issue of turning away students over fees, we are receiving many complaints over this issue.”

Chegutu West MP Dexter Nduna, however, complained that there are some orphans who can’t afford to pay school fees to which Mavima responded by saying government has the Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam) which caters for them although the challenge was the delay in payment of Beam.

Civil Society Organisations and Education rights groups are currently piling pressure on the Primary and Secondary Education ministry to ensure that every child attends primary school this year. This comes as government is failing to timely disburse funds to schools. Only 415 900 of the one million children are being covered by the programme..

According to Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, 50 percent of children in districts surveyed by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Zimvac) in 2017 were not attending school due to financial constraints, with the national non-attendance standing at 34 percent.

“According to the ministry of Labour and Social Services, Beam is funding school fees and examination fees for around 415 900 vulnerable children, against an estimated 1 045 480 in need of educational support.

“Government availed $1,5 million in 2017 towards payment of examination fees for 18 021 vulnerable children.

“This programme will be enhanced in the 2018 budget, with resources amounting to $20 million being set aside to support the Beam programme,” Chinamasa said.

Meanwhile Mavima insisted that there is no policy inconsistency on the issue of ECD.

“There  is no policy inconsistency, teachers who are currently teaching ECD will continue being supported by government. The government said it cannot recruit more teachers but if  school development associations (SDAs) can afford to pay more teachers  at their schools they can do so.”

Meanwhile President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday gave a directive to Zanu PF not to conduct party business concurrently with Parliament sitting.

Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda revealed this yesterday after opposition MPs complained that the ministers were absconding Parliament while attending the politburo yesterday.

“The party meeting (yesterday’s ruling party politburo meeting) was planned on the understanding that Parliament will be back next week, however the president told me that they will be arrangements that in future they will be no clash of the two,” Mudenda said.

After Mudenda’s sentiments, MDC MP for Kuwadzana East Nelson Chamisa said it was a good development that the president is taking Parliament business seriously as compared to former president Robert Mugabe.

Last year, Mnangagwa cancelled a Zanu PF politburo meeting at the last minute as he resisted temptation to prioritise party business ahead of government.

During Mugabe’s reign, Zanu PF programmes were prioritised over government business.

For instance, when Mugabe’s wife Grace, as Zanu PF women’s league secretary, held her controversial countrywide rallies, they almost always dealt a major blow on government business as ministers abandoned their work stations to attend the whistle stop tours.

Since she entered the political fray following the ouster of former vice president Joice Mujuru in 2014, dozens of Cabinet ministers would make a bee-line to Grace’s rallies, leaving their offices manned by deputy ministers and permanent secretaries.

The same applied when Mugabe himself held his equally controversial interface rallies with youths, ministers would abandon their duties to attend the rallies for fear of being labelled as opposed to his rule.

Opposition political parties often complained about Zanu PF conflation with the State to the extent that it had become difficult to make a distinction between party business and the officials’ public service obligations.

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