15 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Government Crackdown On Private Schools

GOVERNMENT will soon launch a crackdown on unregistered private schools and colleges that have mushroomed in the central business districts and residential areas, an official has said.

Principal director in the Ministry of Education, Arts, Sport, and Culture, Mr Lysias Bowora said they have been casual and reluctant to take action against them over the years because the learning environment in formal schools had deteriorated owing to the exodus of teachers, among other challenges.

He said they will close the schools and assist affected students secure places in formal schools. Mr Bowora said this week while giving oral evidence before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education, Arts, Sport and Culture.

The committee, chaired by Gokwe MP Cde Dorothy Mangami (Zanu-PF), wanted to know the programmes for the ministry this year.

'Things have now improved, there is no justification for these private schools. They have been surviving because of support from parents. We are also considering the route that was taken by the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education on colleges to name and shame those operating illegally in newspapers,' said Mr Bowora.

St Mary"s MP Mr Marvellous Khumalo (MDC-T) asked if they had the capacity to absorb those affected students.'Yes, we have the capacity because the policy is that no school is full until it has double sessions,' he said.

Secretary for the ministry, Mrs Constance Chigwamba, said the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council was owed more than US$2 million by Treasury for the marking of public examinations. She said Zimsec had used some examination fees for Ordinary and Advanced Level last year to pay for the marking of Grade Seven results after Treasury failed to disburse the funds for the marking of Grade Seven which is written for free.

'We had to use fees for O Level to cover the gap and it was a miracle that we were able to release the results on time,' he said.

Zimsec director Esau Nhandara expressed concern on delays by Government in determining the examination fees for O and A level examination for this year.

'We compute a budget of Grade Seven, O and A Level and we religiously submit to the parent ministry for Treasury. Last year, we had to take from what was in the kit and if we don't replenish it we have a problem. The more we take without replenishing the greater the problem,' he said.

'For 2013, there are figures that have been prepared and approved by the board but to realise revenue, fees have to be set. As we speak, we have not yet set exam fees,' he said.

Mutasa North MP Mr David Chimhini (MDC-T) said Government ought to be decisive on whether to provide free examination for Grade Seven or not. Mrs Chigwamba said the problem was not on policy because it was clear that Government said Grade Seven examinations would be free. She said the challenge lied on the release of funds.

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