Gloom as schools turn away pupils over fees

Ephraim Munhuwei

A cloud of disappointment hangs over Gokwe as several schools in the area have been forced to turn away students who are unable to pay their fees, leaving families in distress and pupils without access to education.

Despite efforts by the government to ensure every child obtains an education, the recent economic downturn has resulted in many families struggling to meet financial obligations, including paying school fees. This financial burden has now reached a breaking point, with schools left with no choice but to deny entry to students whose fees remain unpaid.

One such school, Gokwe Satelite Primary School, has been forced to turn away a significant number of pupils due to their families’ inability to afford the fees. This heartbreaking situation has left parents feeling helpless and children disheartened, as education, once a source of hope, now seems out of reach.

“We have always prioritized education for our children, but due to financial difficulties, we are unable to pay the full fees,” shared one distraught parent, Ncube. “It breaks my heart to see my son, who is so eager to learn, being denied admission.”

School pupils are walking long distances, and going to school, but upon arrival, they are denied entry because they have not paid school fees yet. Some of the primary schools in Gokwe are demanding between USD$35 to USD$50 which most parents cannot afford.

“What is so special in primary school that we have to pay exorbitant school fees? $45 is too much for a primary student. The country’s economy is not stable, how do they expect us to get that money? We are failing to put food on the table, so how can we raise USD$45?” asked one parent from the Njelele Phase Two Gokwe Town location.

“…they are demanding too much money from us, but surprisingly the teachers are not doing their work. The majority of the teachers here are spending time in politics, and others are busy selling electrical gadgets in town during their working hours, they are not teaching our children, but they have the audacity to deny our children entrance to school. There is a need for the school to engage us through a meeting so that we come to a consensus on what should happen, not to chase our children back home. We want a meeting with the school authorities and School Development Committee (SDC) so that we redraft the school fees”, said a parent who refused to be named.

The impact of this crisis extends beyond the individuals affected, directly impacting the overall literacy rate in the community. Without access to education, these children risk falling behind their peers, suffering long-term consequences for their growth and future prospects.

Zimbabwe National Association of Secondary School Heads Secretary-General Munyaradzi Majoni told this reporter that parents are in a financial bind.

“School heads are giving the directive that bursars should accept all forms of payment. However, considering the prevailing situation, some schools, through their SDC [School Development Committees], choose US$ as the exclusive currency. Parents have an obligation to pay fees for their children so that the school can run smoothly. Schools are non-profit making organisations so they depend on levies for their day-to-day operations,” he said.

Speaking in an interview with this reporter Zimbabwe Teachers Association president Richard Gundane said quality education was at risk given the many challenges facing the education sector.

“Government should review salaries to meet educator’s demands while parents should pay fees and levies to support schools, and school authorities provide a conducive working environment. In that way, learners will focus on attaining better results. The mismatch between salaries and the cost of living is the biggest challenge that affects quality education,” he added.

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