A report recently by Auditor General Mildred Chiri says there were delays by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) in processing the applications for registration, re-registration and establishment of schools, contrary to set timelines.
This has seen the mushrooming of unregistered schools with Mutare having the highest of unregistered ECD centres and Bulawayo central having the lowest at 9 centres.
"The timelines for the processing of the applications at Head Office must be three months for establishment and four months for registration or re-registration," Chiri reports.
"Processing of applications has been outstanding for as long as twenty-four months.
"In addition, from a sample of 97 applications reviewed, 69 were still pending at the time of audit.
"The reasons for the delays could not be clearly established as the Provincial Directors interviewed were of the view that the process was bureaucratic as the applications were done from the District Office to Provincial Office, then Head Office yet some time ago approvals were done at provincial level."
Chiri added, "As a result of these delays, there was sprouting of unregistered schools and colleges operating from unsuitable premises such as backyards and garages.
"The unregistered schools had unsuitable, inadequate furniture and classrooms.
"The MoPSE may not be aware of the existence of such schools and colleges, if they do not monitor and supervise them.
"This created an opportunity for these schools to employ unqualified teachers, thereby negatively affecting the quality of education given."
Second on the list of unregistered schools is Gweru with 132, Mzilikazi (39), Makonde (17), Bindura (15), and Mbare-Highfield 14.
Mbare has the highest number of unregistered Independent Colleges at 22, followed by Mzilikazi 13, Makonde (7), Gweru (6), Mutare 3 and Bindura and Masvingo both having 4.
"Due to the absence of monitoring mechanisms, I noted that some institutions were registered as secondary schools but went on to enrol learners for both ECD and primary school level without applying for another registration certificate as stipulated in the regulations," Chiri added.
"The recruitment of grade ones by ECD registered institutions did not comply with regulations for running primary school services in terms of space, classrooms and enrolment. The situation could be rampant throughout the country."
According to the Ministry's internal policy, each school should be visited at least once every year for institutional assessment.
However, from a sample of school files that were reviewed, there was no evidence to show that inspectors were carrying out these annual visits.
"From all the six districts that I visited, I noted that the school inspectors did not have adequate vehicles," Chiri said.
"Most districts had only one vehicle whilst others did not have any.
"The Ministry is compromising the education of children enrolled at schools and colleges as they do not do inspections to ensure that quality services are offered."