Zimbabwe: New Funding Models Needed for Education

22 November 2019
opinion

Monica Cheru — Mpambawashe

Education got the highest vote in the 2020 Budget announced by Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube last week. With a total ZWL$10.7 billion the two education ministries got almost 17 percent of the total Budget.

Prof Ncube allocated ZWL$8.5 billion for the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

But come January parents will be running around trying to raise fees. It is likely that the current school dropout rate of 25 percent will increase in face of continued inflation and depleted real earning power for most Zimbabweans in both the formal and informal sectors.

The Budgetary allocation for Education was high again last year, but still parents were faced with increased fees and top ups. So where is the money going?

The answer is simple. More than 90 percent of the education vote is going to salaries.

According to Zimstats, in 2017 there were 117 022 teachers countrywide.

Economic revival is obviously important - more jobs, more taxes, bigger GDP means if current ratios are maintained education vote will be 17 percent of a bigger cake

But with an increasing number of young people, it is likely that the number of teachers will continue to rise.

Therefore, by implication even if the economy rebounds and the Education vote value increases appreciably, salaries will continue to be an ever ballooning cost.

Faced with the need to build more schools as well as upgrade and maintain existing ones, it is clear that we have to urgently consider the matter of education funding.

New revenue is needed if we are to cater for the population boom that is projected to double the number of learners in basic education institutions over the next 10 years.

Without such a plan, education will become a luxury for the elite and we lose on all the gains that we have made as the country with the ninth highest literacy rates in Africa at 86.4 percent.

Pressure on the parents

Civil servants remuneration is a topical discussion.

There is the possibility of parents resorting to the trend that was started in the past decade when schools institutionalised extra levies for teacher welfare in the form of incentives to curb strikes.

The burden on the parent is unsustainable.

To make matters worse, rampant corruption and mismanagement of the fees paid by parents to the schools is raising the cost of education against decreasing or stagnant standards.

The Auditor-General's reports have shown terrible leaks in the management of school fees. There are over priced goods. There are also ill-thought out investments and expenditures.

There are white elephants.

There is need to create transparent and efficient school procurement systems.

Currently we are reliant on support from various organisations that are supporting vulnerable children.

They have made a huge difference.

Without that funding it is likely that the percentage of young people who have never been to school would rise beyond the current 12 percent. Our school dropout rates would likely sky rocket as well.

New funding models from existing resources

To ensure quality education for all, there is need to look for new funding models. For me, that begins with ownership of schools.

Currently, local authorities own about 76 percent of all primary schools, with rural authorities having the lion's share. Government and private players -- including churches -- own the rest.

In the United States, except for the state of Hawaii, local authorities fund basic education from property taxes. This is a basic amenity that the authority must provide for residents within its jurisdiction as a way of ensuring the basic human right.

The Government could cede all urban Government schools to local authorities who would have to put aside a set percentage of their property taxes towards basic education.

This works for urban authorities because they have a wide base of property taxes due to population density, commercial enterprises and affluent suburbs.

But for rural authorities, the picture is different.

Most areas are peopled by disadvantaged communities with limited growth point residential and commercial properties that command much less in property taxes per square metre when juxtaposed to comparable urban properties.

The answer lies in Devolution and Community Share Ownership Trusts.

With each province poised for autonomy and personalised GDPs, basic human rights like access to clean water, education and health must be at the core of all planning.

All revenue from Community Share Ownership Trusts must be centralised for the province and then budgeted for with set votes for Education funding, among other needs.

Partner and charitable organisations continue to be important funding sources for education. But there is need for synchronising operations as a country and in localities. By having a digital real time central registry of all CSOs and NGOs operations, the system would become more effective making sure that we achieve education for all.

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