8 November 2017

Zimbabwe: School in South Africa Trip Nightmare

Direct Contact School authorities in Harare have come under fire from some parents after it emerged that their children who had gone for a travel and tourism trip to Cape Town, South Africa were stranded following the engagement of a "bogus" travel agent, The Herald can reveal. Travel and tourism is a subject the school offers under the Cambridge syllabus.

It was reported that 15 Lower Six pupils, who are in Cape Town, were left wandering after the touring company engaged by the school failed to book their accommodation. A visit to the school yesterday revealed disgruntled parents milling around campus demanding to meet the authorities, suggesting that their children be brought back with immediate effect.

"This is uncalled for behaviour from the school authorities. How could they engage a bogus travel agent who has caused so much suffering to our children and to make matters worse, they are writing exams," said one parent who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We paid $700 for the trip and this is what we get in return.

"My children told me that they are stranded because the touring company failed to book them a hotel and were forced to use their pocket money to hire a commuter omnibus to a nearby lodge. "All we want is for school authorities to facilitate our children's return trip today (Tuesday) because we cannot sit back and relax as if all is well." Another parent said it was disturbing that the school authorities would treat them this way.

"They asked us to pay $700 for the trip and on top of that, we were also ordered to add another $70 citing late payments to which we did. We want them back home after we learnt that some are in Cape Town, while others are stuck in Johannesburg which is a dangerous place," said the parent.

However, the school managing director, Mr Wellington Koke distanced the school from the chaotic situation. "This is trivial because it is not a school trip, but a student trip (travel and tourism trip) which students and their teachers are supposed to organise. "The school comes in as the overall superintendent of the entire programme. We are not allowed to be involved.

"This year, like any other, they suggested to go to Cape Town saying locally they have exhausted all the tourist destinations in terms of visits. They organised it sometime in May and on the current situation, I was informed yesterday (Monday)," he said. Mr Koke said whatever they were experiencing was part of their learning.

"Whatever they are encountering now is part and parcel of the information gathering with the view to come up with a project. I am also trying to figure out how the situation got to this and I have also discovered that the person that was engaged was incompetent and bogus. I also gathered that parents delayed in paying while some of the pupils did not have passports nor affidavits and were left behind.

"I also want to blame the agent because he should have furnished them with all the information required." He said parents paid $700 per child and their expectations were to have their children booked in a five-star hotel to which their money was insufficient. As of yesterday, the school authorities convened a meeting with the parents to map a way forward.


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