SOME teachers in public schools are making a killing by demanding monetary incentives from their pupils’ parents despite the Government’s ban on the practice, it has emerged.
Investigations carried out by The Sunday Mail Society last week show that parents are being pressured to pay between US$2 and US$4 per month for each child.
With the current teacher to pupil ratio estimated to be averaging 1:60, teachers could be pocketing in excess of US$240 per month in incentives only.
On top of the incentives, parents are also expected to pay for extra lessons, which are sometimes conducted during school hours.
Those who fail to pay risk having their child or children isolated from the learning process.
A deputy headmaster from a council primary school (name supplied) in Kuwadzana is reported to have openly told learners at assembly that their parents needed to pay the incentives to avoid disruption of classes.
While suspected school authorities declined to comment on the issue, referring all questions to their parent ministry (Primary and Secondary Education), the teachers themselves anonymously admitted to the practice in interviews with this publication.
They claimed that the incentives are an agreement mutually entered into by the teacher and the parent for “supplementary support” to children with challenges.
“But this is also to aid the insufficient salaries we are getting from the Government,” said one of the teachers, adding: “It is, however, not true that we are making a lot of money. We are only making enough to get by, just like everyone else.”
A female teacher based in Mabvuku, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said parents who failed to pay the incentives put their children at risk of falling behind in their education.
“The child will simply be ignored. No one will check whether they participate in class or do their homework properly. The teacher will pretend that the child does not exist. So clever parents negotiate or even befriend the teachers for the sake of their children,” she said.
The Zimbabwe Schools Development Committees/Associations (ZSDC/As) secretary-general Mr Everisto Jongwe confirmed that teachers’ incentives are back in most schools.
Furthermore, he said, there was nothing wrong with the practice, as long as the parents and teachers are in agreement. He said, normally, agreements are reached between the two parties, adding that in rare circumstances where incentives are adopted by the school, they are usually agreed to by all stakeholders.
“Given the current economic situation, there is nothing wrong with incentives if they are strictly meant for the benefit of children’s education,” he said.
“If the schools, standing SDCs and parents are in agreement, then there shouldn’t be any problem because this is a sure way of keeping teachers in schools and ensuring quality education.
“At the moment, the Government is unable to meet the full demands of the teachers. If parents agree to come in and assist then they should be allowed to do so. However, those who cannot afford should not be forced.”
Mr Richard Gundane of the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) also confirmed the existence of teachers’ incentives, saying they were necessitated by the current economic situation.
He nonetheless warned that the practice was not being regulated and could subject parents to manipulation by unscrupulous teachers.
“Sometimes teachers and parents enter into these agreements to create win-win situations. Ideally, it’s not a good solution because the arrangements are not regulated and many conflicts could arise, including the manipulation that can come with the arrangement,” he said.
While incentives have brought joy to some teachers, the practice has only been adopted in urban areas, with parents in rural areas and other poor communities failing to pay.
Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe’s Mr Obert Masaraure said incentives are not a viable solution if they did not benefit teachers in rural areas.
“This does not work for rural schools because the parents cannot afford to pay,” said Mr Masaraure.
“We have always said we need a rural retention allowance for the teachers because unlike those in urban schools, rural teachers do not receive teachers’ incentives and other advantages that come with being stationed in cities. However, if the Government wants to stop this practice, they should see to it that they pay competitive salaries.”
Some teachers interviewed said Government officials were aware of the incentives but are reluctant to act.
However, when contacted for comment, the Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, Ambassador Cain Mathema, said he was unaware of the incentives.
“I do not know about any incentives, I only know about salaries. Apart from the salary, which incentives are you talking about?” he queried.
Parents who spoke to The Sunday Mail Society expressed mixed views over the teachers’ incentives.
“I don’t know what to make of it, it’s a real dilemma. If you are paying fees I believe there shouldn’t be any extra money or material required from the parent. However, the Government employees are not adequately taken care of and the only way out is through these incentives so that the teachers can attend to our children,” said one parent.
Another parent said she could not afford to pay the incentives.
“I cannot afford it, I just send him to school and hope that he will make it,” she said.
“If the teachers ignore him, then I cannot help it. I do not have the money. That is why we argue that these things should never be allowed. People like me cannot afford it.”