By Tererai Karimakwenda
13 September 2012
Thousands of students will not have the opportunity to attend classes this term after they were turned away for non-payment of fees, by both primary and secondary schools in Bulawayo on Tuesday.
According to a survey by the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA), at least nineteen schools denied access to school children who failed to produce school fees receipts.
In addition an estimated 50,000 students on the government’s cadetship programme were barred from registering for classes with universities, that are demanding that millions of dollars in unpaid bills be settled by government first.
According to the state controlled Herald newspaper, the government owes a total of $100 million to the ten universities that participate in the programme. Government, in theory, pays the tuition fees for students, who in turn promise to work in Zimbabwe for a specified number of years.
Education Minister David Coltart blamed government for not making education a priority while allocating much more money to the defence budget and travel. He said problems will persist as long as education is sidelined.
Asked about the children who were turned away Coltart said: “I don’t like it and it needs to change, but schools are in a very difficult situation. It costs a lot of money to run them and pay for water and electricity.”
Coltart explained that government has set minimal fees which he felt most parents should be able to pay, if they make education for their children a priority. He said primary schools in rural districts are free and urban districts charge $10 per term. Secondary schools in urban districts charge $20 per term.
But students have to also pay levies which are determined by each individual school after consulting with parents. The Minister admitted this may be unaffordable for some parents, especially those who cannot find jobs.
Meanwhile the Herald said Higher Education Minister Stan Mudenge blamed Finance Minister Tendai Biti for the problem. Mudenge said only $1 million of the required $42 million this year had been released by Biti so far.
But the Finance Minister insists there is no money in the treasury and the funds from the sale of diamonds continue to only enrich the ZANU PF and military elite.