Multi-pronged approach needed to address students’ issues

HARARE – For many years, we have seen the tendency by our government to give directives to schools to allow learners to attend classes despite lagging behind with their fees.

Despite prohibiting the chasing away of students over non-payment of fees, schools have largely ignored the directive.

Other schools are even known for withholding school results and birth certificates of students who would have failed to pay for their school fees.

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While we appreciate that the economy is not performing well thus, inhibiting the capacity to pay school fees, parents should not expect schools to produce sterling academic results without resources.

Because of the criticality of education, they must prioritise their children’s education over everything else and discard this unacceptable culture of being averse to payment of school fees just for the sake of it.

By enrolling their children in schools, they must know that there are obligations that go with that decision as the schools require the money for their day-to-day operations. They must also be responsible enough to discuss an acceptable payment plan with the school governing body in the event that they are genuine difficulties militating against their ability to pay school fees to ensure that their child’s school fees are settled as early as possible so that the school can afford to meet its monthly expenses.

Government policy on universal primary education and its complementary policy that no child should be denied access to schooling is supported constitutionally. Our Constitution says compulsory basic education should be accessed by all the children which means if you do not send your child to school, that will be committing a crime. As for government, instead of just ordering schools to accept pupils who would not have paid school fees, it should also play its part and release the Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam) funds timeously to support education for the poor and most vulnerable like orphans.

Launched in 2000, Beam used to timely disburse millions of dollars directly to schools to cover tuition fees and levies in primary and secondary schools and examination fees in secondary schools; 45 percent of this amount was provided by donors.

With the advent of hyperinflation, Beam resources became negligible and failed to reach the intended objective of supporting access to education by the poor and most vulnerable, hence schools and communities are struggling to keep beneficiaries in school.

Since the cancellation of government grants following the economic crisis, university and college students have also been forced to miss lectures or drop out altogether.

We call for a multi-pronged approach by government, nongovernmental organisations, the private sector, universities, families and students to holistically address the challenges facing students.

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