By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
13 May 2014
Zimbabwe schools reopened for the second term this week, amid ongoing concern about the cost of school fees and the fate of children whose fees are unpaid.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Lazarus Dokora last week announced that school fees for this year at government and independent institutions would remain frozen, while voluntary levies or other unauthorised charges would not be allowed.
While schools have abided by this price freeze, the term costs still run into the hundreds of dollars for many parents.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZHLR) has since called on headmasters and school authorities to allow all children to continue with their studies, even if their fees are outstanding, saying it is unconstitutional for the students to be turned away.
The ZLHR said in a press statement: “The exclusion of children for non-payment of school fees is unconstitutional.”
The group explained that schools throughout the country are still turning away children despite this section of the carter, and this was leading to an increase in student drop-out rates.
“Notwithstanding the new constitutional dispensation, throughout the country, there continues to be alarming tales of children being turned away from school due to failure to pay school fees. This has consequently led to an increase in numbers of children dropping out of school altogether,” the ZLHR said.
The fees issue meanwhile has also added to the reported low morale among the country’s teachers. Takavafira Zhou, President of the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, was quoted by the NewsDay newspaper as saying that teacher’s were denied a chance to make extra income during the holiday break, after the government banned holiday lessons and scrapped teacher incentives.
“Schools are opening for the second term amid political paralysis, the worsening liquidity crisis, erosion of teachers’ salaries, unilateral decision-making by Education ministry officials on a number of issues that need logical disputation and engagement with teacher unions, and the threat of labour law reform that moves the clock backwards to the colonial Master and Servant Act,” Zhou said.