Ray Bande and Daniel Mhonda Post Reporters
PARENTS in Manicaland were this week left fuming over irrational demands for student groceries and bond paper – over and above recently hiked and exorbitant school fees – by some schools in the province.
Some boarding schools (names withheld) are demanding student groceries of $300 to $500 per child while their day school counterparts have joined the bandwagon with irrational demands for bond paper.
A ream of bond paper is pegged at between $25 and 30.
Some schools are demanding two reams per child.
Several school heads and teachers confirmed this illegal practice when The Manica Post inquired how many reams of bond papers and groceries the schools wanted per child.
It also emerged this week that schools in Manicaland are geared up for the first term of 2019 with all teachers reporting for duty despite calls to down tools by some teachers’ unions.
A parent with a child at a primary school in Mutare said: “I paid my fees last year and my child was sent back home on Tuesday because the school was demanding one bond paper ream. Some of the schools are still to make applications to hike fees, and are illegally requesting for school fees in kind or material form,” said the parent.
Another parent with a child at a boarding school in Chipinge had this to say: “I was requested by the school administration to make sure my child brings groceries that include rice, cooking oil and maize meal, among others. My situation is dire and I cannot afford it, I will leave it to them to send the child back, and I will take it up from there. We are being ripped-off.”
A guardian with a child at a different boarding school in the same district also said they were requested to buy student groceries.
Another parent with children at a primary school in Mutare bitterly complained about the request to buy bond paper.
“We are being forced to buy bond paper for every pupil. We understand that ECD A up to Grade One have great need for these bond sheets, but what about those that are demanding bond paper from every pupil from ECD A up to Grade 7?
“We only receive one newsletter per term and where is the rest of the bond paper going? We are paying school fees that should cater for the stationery for the school. A school with an enrolment of 2 000 pupils receives 2000 reams of bond paper, and if you multiply 2000 by 500 sheets that are in a ream, we are talking of enough sheets that can take the school up to three years.
“Are these bond papers going to be audited? Some schools are demanding two reams of bond paper per child and it is pure day light robbery. The ministry should intervene. We are being ripped-off of our hard earned few dollars by greedy elements running these schools,” fumed the parent, who refused to be named for fear of victimisation.
Manicaland Provincial education director Edward Shumba lambasted school heads that were insensitive to the parent’s plight by making illegal demands like student groceries, floor polish, reams of bond paper and even private sales of school uniforms at schools.
“Students are free to buy school requirements like uniforms wherever they want so long as they are uniforms of the quality and standard required by the school. Teachers or ancillary staff that buy and force students to buy their uniforms at exorbitant prices must be warned. This is not allowed… and please, you stop it before we catch up with you,” he said.
Mr Shumba said Government had allowed schools to increase fees after agreeing with parents. He said no school should request supplements from parents and guardians for any reason.
“We will only entertain school fees increases that have been agreed on by the parents, and we have communicated this to the School Development Committees (SDCs) in the province.
“In as much as the price madness continues, schools are not allowed to request groceries from students or parents for any reason. They schools have no mandate either to charge school fees in kind as is the case with bond papers. It is illegal to demand school fees in both monetary and material form, and to be precise that should stop,” he said.
Mr Shumba said they were conducting investigations and those found on the wrong side the law will be punished accordingly.
“A headmaster is the overall accounting officer, just like a chief executive officer (CEOs) of his or her SDC. We expect them to correctly advise parents on policy matters. It is a chargeable offence to violate the policy. It is the school head who will face the music for demanding extra supplements on top of school fees at his or her school. Parents should know that they have platforms to raise their concerns, and all those aggrieved should formalise their complaints with our district offices,” he said.
Mr Shumba said they were waiting for reports from teams dispatched in different districts to investigate the complaints from parents.