Blessings Chidakwa Herald Correspondent
Parents and guardians who are being forced by teachers to pay for extra lessons, chair bags and other demands in foreign currency outside what has been officially approved must report to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education for corrective action to be taken.
Many parents allege that there are teachers who demand between US$1 and US$5 a child per week for extra lessons, or demand that parents buy chair bags that cost double the price of similar products on the market.
Parents suspect that some school heads are benefiting from the illegal scheme, although there are reports of some heads making it clear that parents must not make the payments since they were not approved.
Some schools that have been mentioned for having teachers who demand extra payments are Hatfield Junior School in Harare, Seke 2 and 5 high schools in Chitungwiza.
Widdecombe Primary School in Ruwa has since written to parents and guardians telling them to ignore the teachers’ demands, as they were not sanctioned.
“The school head’s office has been inundated with visits and calls to seek clarification for amounts of monies being asked for by some teachers through their children for any purposes,” reads the letter seen by The Herald dated January 29.
“So, therefore, this office hereby clarifies that there has been no approval whatsoever from school authorities to levy such monies from parents.”
Some teachers at Hatfield Junior School are demanding that all students must buy chair bags from a recommended supplier.
These chair bags cost US$6 from the teachers’ supplier, but some parents say they can get them elsewhere for half the price.
Pupils who fail to comply are reportedly isolated during scheduled teaching times, and are usually at the end of all punishments, including being beaten daily on frivolous charges.
Parents are also furious over payments for “extra lessons”.
“Teachers do not appreciate that we live in the same challenging economic environment as them,” said Mrs Theresa Sibanda, whose daughter learns at Hatfield Junior.
“We struggle to pay the fees and they make such ridiculous demands.
“It is disappointing to note that teachers do not appreciate that we also face financial challenges like everyone else in the country.
“Ever since some parents, including myself, raised concern over the high price of the chair bag, my daughter tells me that she is being beaten by her teacher daily on funny charges. Government should intervene and save the parents and the national school system, which is under threat from such teachers.”
A parent whose child learns at Jonasi Secondary School in Seke, just outside Chitungwiza, said she was paying US$1 per week for extra lessons.
“I have no choice but to pay the money being demanded by my child’s teacher,” said the parent.
“I was told that the teacher was now preferring to teach only those that attend extra lessons.”
Permanent Secretary for Primary and Secondary Education Mrs Tumisang Thabela said teachers demanding extra payments or forex payments should be reported for corrective action.
“Teachers are employed to teach during the scheduled time, so whatever happens during outside this time like extra lessons is not something that will be done with the knowledge or sanction of the ministry,” she said.
“On school uniforms, the ministry’s policy has been pronounced quite clearly on a number of times. Parents must buy to their best advantage. There is no school that is supposed to force parents to buy uniforms from itself.
“So, perhaps what we are appealing for from the public is, if there are such examples, let us be made aware and then we can handle the situation from there.”
The secretary general of Zimbabwe Schools Development Committees and Associations, Mr Everisto Jongwe, said recently that there was nothing wrong with teachers taking extra money from parents so long as they were in agreement.
“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,” he said.
Mr Jongwe said those who could not afford should not be forced to pay or penalised.
Mr Richard Gundane of the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association said while teachers were receiving incentives, there were fears that if the practice remained unregulated, it could subject parents to manipulation by unscrupulous teachers.
For decades, teachers have offered extra lessons for extra payment, but the practice has only been tolerated so long as there is no compulsion and teachers do not differentiate between pupils.