Teachers have not officially notified their parent ministry of an intention to down tools when schools open on Tuesday, hence the Government is expecting schools to smoothly open for the first term of the year, an official has said.
In an interview yesterday, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Mrs Tumisang Thabela said teachers have not given any notice to strike.
“We do not have any notice to strike. We have heard rumours of teachers plotting to strike. We sat down with them but they never told us of a strike. As a ministry we are ready for the first term and we are waiting to hear from those who are responsible for the welfare of teachers to tell us the way forward, whether they will give us the teachers or not,” she said.
The ministry is anticipating to add 3 000 more teachers this year. The development comes as reports indicated that a high-powered ministerial delegation will tomorrow meet civil servants representatives to discuss challenges faced by the workers.
Mrs Thabela added that the ministry has approved school fees increases for some schools that applied to the ministry although none has been given the green light to charge in foreign currency.
“Where schools have applied and followed due processes, they have been granted authority to increase fees. There is a circular that actually went out where the minister told schools that because of the realities on the ground we can’t say don’t increase fees but it has to be justified and there is a due process that they have to follow.”
Mrs Thabela said she could not say off hand, which schools have applied and granted the green light to adjust their fees.
A week-long survey by Sunday News revealed that apart from adjusting fees, some boarding schools are demanding part payment in foreign currency while some have gone a step further by demanding that parents buy groceries for their children. In the past, procurement of food and other necessities used by boarders was done by the school.
At Manama High School in Gwanda District, parents have been given a list of groceries to buy. According to the list each child should in addition to the fees bring 5kgs of rice, 5kg of sugar, 5 litres of cool drink and 5 litres of cooking oil. Other schools that have also demanded various grocery items include Usher High School in Matabeleland South’s Bulilima District.
John Tallach High School in Matabeleland North has asked parents to top up their fees by an additional $50. Other schools have simply increased their fees and sent notices to parents that if need be, there will be another top-up during the term.
Parents at David Livingstone in Ntabazinduna said the school increased fees from $580 to $850 per term.
“Last term we were paying $530 for term one, but we were recently called to a meeting where they told us the fees have gone up to $850.
They said this is to cushion the school since prices of most goods have gone up,” said a parent with a pupil at the school.
Methodist Church in Zimbabwe-run Thekwane High School in Bulilima had proposed that parents bring groceries last term but later changed goal posts saying they were yet to get approval from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education on what position to take on the matter. According to seculars sent to parents by the school dated 2 January 2019, the school reiterated that it was still waiting for approval on the proposal.
St James High School in Nyamandlovu last term asked parents to provide groceries in order for them to augment what the school was providing as it was no longer adequate. It was, however, not revealed what the demands for this coming term would be. Some schools have reportedly demanded that parents settle part of their fees in foreign currency to guard against price increases.
Mrs Thabela, however, said when they approved the fees increases, they clearly specified that the schools must not demand a specific currency from parents but all working currencies.
“Demanding a certain currency is not acceptable. However, there are certain schools that are said to be doing it without our knowledge,” she said.
On groceries, Mrs Thabela said the ministry does not have jurisdiction over the issue as it was an agreement between parents and schools.
The nightmare for parents has not only been confined to boarding schools but across the board with some primary schools in Bulawayo especially former Group As having reviewed their fees. Most exercise and text books have also gone three to four folds up and the situation has been worsened by the high number of books some schools are demanding.
A random check revealed that a two quire counter book costs an average of $8 in most shops while a A4 32 page is going from $2 and a 72-paged book is going for $2,50. However, some vendors were also making brisk business by selling some of the books at prices lower than most shops.
Mrs Roseline Moyo, a parent whose child is starting Grade Three at Hope Fountain said education had become expensive and unaffordable for most parents.
“This year it is going to be difficult sending our children back to school, prices continue to go up and yet our salaries remain the same. My child is going to Grade Three, from the list I was given I am supposed to buy 30 exercise books with 10 two quire books, seven A4 72 page and 13 A4 32 pages, not mentioning the list of textbooks needed,” she said.
Mrs Patience Mphoko, a parent of a child starting ECD A at Mahatshula Primary School said she has spent more than $300 buying stationery and other requirements demanded by the school.
“I have spent $321 buying all the required material. It is not easy but for the sake of our children’s education we have to sacrifice. I bought Typek bond paper at $40, poster paint $10, paint brush $3, a pair of scissors for $2, Stickstuff $4, glue $5, file $2, mini laptop $150, reading text books go for an average of $15 each, manilla sheets $2,47 and wax crayons cost an average of $4,22,” said Mrs Mphoko.
Mrs Thabela said the ministry was not in charge of determining prices of stationery and uniforms.