SCORES of illegal backyard schools have sprouted in Bulawayo where garages, houses and churches are being converted into classrooms.
A snap survey carried out by Standardcommunity in the past two weeks showed that the illegal schools were mostly found in the high-density suburbs of Nkulumane, Entumbane and Tshabalala, among others.
Most of the schools are being run by teachers from government schools in a move to supplement their paltry salaries.
At one of the schools we visited, a garage had been converted into a school, offering Grade 7 up to Advanced Level classes.
One of the teachers, who did not want to reveal his identity, said he was running the school to supplement his income.
"The salary that we are getting from government is just too little and we are running this school to earn extra dollars," said the teacher.
"We know it's illegal but that's the only way we can survive."
His "school", was charging US$7 per subject per child for primary lessons and US$10 and US$15 per subject for "O" and "A" level subjects respectively.
Bulawayo province education officer, Dan Moyo confirmed that they were "unscrupulous" people who were running illegal schools in the city.
He said he did not have statistics on the number of schools but at one time in the recent past, his office had to force the closure of some of these schools.
"Yes, we have such a problem and I don't have the statistics of how many illegal schools there are, but what happens is that when we get to know of any illegal school, we send our officers to check," said Moyo. "As soon as we find them, we close them down because they are illegal."
By shutting down the illegal schools, he said, they were protecting both the student and the operators.
"We are trying to protect even those people who are running those illegal schools from the wrath of the law. The law will catch up with you at the end of the day," said the official.
Moyo said before a school is allowed to operate, it has to meet certain standards.
"When the school is opened, the Health department must come and check the health conditions, ventilation and sanitary facilities. It's advisable for parents not to enrol their children at such schools because they are not registered," said Moyo.
Some of the students learning at these schools however, said they were opting for these places because they were cheaper.
"If you go to private colleges in town, they are expensive; that's why we are opting to learn here," said one "O" level student, Sipho Ncube from Nkulumane.
A fortnight ago, the government deregistered 126 colleges countrywide. A total 171 colleges nationally were also deemed to be operating illegally and were shut down as well.
According to a government statement announcing the move, the deregistered colleges had reportedly failed to comply with the Manpower Planning and Development Act after an inspection by education authorities.