TEACHERS’ unions have scoffed at government’s ambitious plans to roll out free basic education next year saying it was mere politicking ahead of the polls.
For years, government has been promising free basic education, but has failed to implement the policy.
The percentage of parents failing to pay school fees for their children has been fast increasing over the years with more than four million children now unable to access education via government’s Basic Education Module (Beam), as it is only able to cater for one million children.
Meanwhile, many schools now demand fees in foreign currency, making many doubting whether government would manage to fulfil its free education pledge.
In March, President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared that government was going to provide free basic education with effect from 2023. In 2018, government issued the same statement saying it would offer free education by 2019.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, president Takavafira Zhou said: “This epistle is a product of historical analysis, coloured by educational taxonomy, and must never be associated with any organisation or political party. It is informed by nothing other than the truth and a desire to build a credible system of quality public education that can enhance sustainable development in Zimbabwe.”
Zhou said despite the free education promises, primary schoolchildren need to pay US$30 per term, while secondary school pupils pay US$50 per term in order for schools to function efficiently.
“As such, nationally, government would need US$109 973 460 per term for primary school pupils that number 3 665 782, and US$56 578 650 for secondary school pupils that number 1 131 573. The total demand per term in 2023 would be around US$166 552 110 if every pupil gets free basic education looking at enrolment figures.
“It does not require a rocket scientist to realise that this is impossible after nothing materialised in 2018. Arguably, the call for free education is nothing more than political banter and homiletic bellicose. We have heard this political expediency before in the 2018 elections and nothing materialised after the elections.”
Zimbabwe National Union of School Heads secretary-general Munyaradzi Majoni said: “We think the idea is good, but the fear is on implementation of the programme which is doubtful. The quality of education has been suffering whenever pilot programmes are introduced.”
Majoni said Beam had failed to cater for vulnerable children’s fees, which means that the free education policy would be difficult for government to implement.
“Government promised to pay for teachers’ children fees, but as I am speaking to you, nothing has been debited into school accounts to cater for the teachers’ children,” he
Zimbabwe Teachers Association acting secretary-general Goodwill Taderera said: “We cannot deny that government might do that, but our only worry is that when you look at Beam, government has been delaying payment of fees to the extent that the money lost value.”