School fees madness should be addressed

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IT has become the norm that when schools reopen for a new term, pupils are sent away over non-payment of tuition fees and the government would routinely issue iddle threats against school heads that bar students from classes.

Southern Eye Editorial

A number of schools in Bulawayo on Tuesday chased away students when schools opened for the third term while many others promised to bar pupils without fee receipts from attending lessons this week.

In the past, the Education, Sport, Arts and Culture ministry encouraged parents to pay fees on time, but at the same time urged authorities to allow parents to negotiate payment terms.

Such advise was given on the realisation that most parents with children at public schools were too poor to afford paying all the fees on time, particularly owing to the meagre salaries they receive while others were unemployed.

The situation in Bulawayo has been worsened by continued company closures and unrelenting retrenchments.

More than 100 companies are reported to have closed shop since 2009 in Bulawayo, sending thousands into unemployment.

The government and school authorities are aware of challenges that parents face on a daily basis and they should also not behave as if they live on a different planet.

It is the responsibility of the government to ensure all children who need education get it and are never punished for their parents’ poverty as it seems to be the case right now. The government should not just fold its arms when its directives are flouted with impunity by errant school heads.

Legal experts have in the past warned that is illegal and criminal for schools to send away pupils for not paying fees.

Therefore, we urge parents whose children continue to be shut out to report such cases to relevant government departments and the police if necessary.

However, we are not encouraging parents to abdicate their responsibilities of paying school fees on time, but in cases where money is not immidiately available, payment plans must be put in place.

The schools need the cash to facilitate a proper learning environment for the children and parents should always prioritise fees.

School authorities should resort to legal ways of recovering fees from pupils through their parents rather than punishing pupils.