St Faith’s saga reaches crescendo . . . students demonstrate against Anglican Diocese

16 Feb, 2024 - 00:02 0 Views
St Faith’s saga reaches crescendo . . . students demonstrate against Anglican Diocese Over 600 students from St Faith’s High School left their dormitories at around 3am on Wednesday and walked for about 17km to the Makoni District Schools Inspector’s offices in Rusape. The students were demonstrating against the Anglican Diocese of Manicaland over its imposition of an unapproved mission fund of US$600. — Picture: Tinai Nyadzayo

The ManicaPost

 

Samuel Kadungure and Lovemore Kadzura

HUNDREDS of learners from St Faith’s High School on Wednesday demonstrated against their school’s responsible authority, the Anglican Diocese of Manicaland, as they accused it of imposing an unapproved mission fund of US$600, dissolving the School Development Committee (SDC) and harassing the school head for refusing to enforce the collection of the fund.

Over 600 learners nicodemously left their dormitories at around 3am and walked for about 17km to the Makoni District Schools Inspector’s offices in Rusape.

The learners accused the church of prioritising money over their academic well-being and welfare.

 

The Manica Post crew caught up with the protesting learners at Umthombo Farm along the Rusape-Nyanga Road as they chanted songs and denounced Bishop Eric Ruwona and Reverend Taurai Mavhezha for ‘destroying the school’.

They waved placards inscribed: “The church is abusing us”, We are crying for justice”, “His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, we need your attention”, “Church is now a hostile environment”, “Justice for Mr Makamba, restore his dignity”, among others.

The school’s head, Mr Arnold Makamba, and the police caught up with the learners around 7am at the Grace Fellowship Church, which is a stone’s throw away from the District Schools Inspector’s offices and tried to negotiate with them to return to the school.

 

The learners, all dressed in their sports attire, refused to budge, and instead sat on the tarmac, blocking the busy Rusape-Nyanga Highway.

Senior police officers took turns to address and advise the learners that their demonstration was not sanctioned, but they refused to budge, insisting that their intention was to present their grievances to the District Schools Inspector.

As tempers flared, a police officer set a dog on four learners, but still that didn’t dampen their resolve. They overpowered a barricade formed by police officers and marched on to the District Schools Inspector’s office where they were addressed by various Government officials.

Police have since issued a statement regarding the incident, saying: “The ZRP have taken note of a viral social media clip on alleged St Faith’s High School students and ZRP clashes and use of police dogs during a purported pupils demonstration.

“Full details on the incident will be availed once the Officer Commanding Police in Manicaland Province conducts a full inquiry and brief the Commissioner-General on what transpired.”

The Manica Post understands that the four learners who were bitten by a police dog were treated at Tariro Medical Centre and discharged on Wednesday.

 

They were administered with anti-rabies jabs.

As part of their grievances, the St Faith’s High School learners accused the Anglican Diocese of Manicaland of interfering in the day-to-day running of the institution, including enrolment of learners, collecting an unapproved mission fund, harassing the headmaster and dismissing the SDC.

They also demanded the removal of Reverend Mavhezha who last week sparked an uproar when a video clip of him attacking a person with a disability went viral on social media.

“We are now overcrowded in the dormitories because the diocese carried a parallel enrolment of learners. We are now crammed in common rooms with some sleeping on the floor. Very soon there will be an outbreak of diseases like cholera due to overcrowding,” said one learner on condition of anonymity.

 

“The food quality and quantity has been reduced because there are learners who paid their fees directly to the diocese and it was not remitted to the school,” said the learner.

Another learner said effective teaching and learning has been seriously compromised as the over enrolment has stretched the school’s infrastructure, facilities and teachers to the limit.

“There is a shortage of teachers following the unplanned increase in enrolment of Form One learners. We are now too many, yet no new teachers were seconded to the school.

“Due to pressure of work, teachers are no longer doing their usual best. We also need to know Government’s position on the mission fund because it is straining out parents. Why is the bishop (Ruwona) threatening the headmaster in newspapers? This kind of interference by the bishop is putting our future in jeopardy,” charged the learner.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson, Mr Taungana Ndoro said the disturbances were unfortunate.

“Our worry is that learners are being deprived of quality education and learning by the shenanigans from the responsible authority – the church. It is our clarion call for all concerned to try and find an amicable solution so that learners continue to receive quality education at the school.

“We will definitely engage the responsible authority to ensure that effective learning and teaching at St Faith’s High School continues without disruption. We have a very clear policy position on the mission fund.

 

“As Government, our position is that any fees or levies are supposed to be approved by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, and the mission fund has not received such an approval from the ministry. It is very clear that what they are doing is illegal,” said Mr Ndoro.

He added that a lot is happening behind the scenes to deal with the highlighted issues.
“Definitely there will be some recourse, just allow us time to find each other. As we speak, a lot is happening in closed door meetings to resolve these matters,” he said.

When contacted to comment on the matter, the Anglican Church Manicaland Diocese spokesperson and registrar, Mr Ashel Mutungura refused to comment.

“Write that Mutungura said I have no comment to give you,” he said.

As all this happens, the school’s SDC has been dissolved by the church.

This publication is in possession of a letter from the Anglican Church Manicaland Diocese acting education secretary, Reverend Edmond Zambe Samutereko dissolving the Dr Lovemore Chipunza-led SDC.

ln the letter, the SDC is accused of mobilising villagers to interfere with school operations, leading to the ugly clashes reported last week.

 

The SDC is also accused of refusing to submit to the church and unilaterally increasing school fees and levies.

 

“You have no right or control of tuition fees and boarding fees, but you continue to abuse that position and you have created a tortoise relationship between the Parents Assembly and the responsible authority (the church) for your selfish reasons.

“We, in terms of Section 36 of the Education Act (Chapter 25:04), dissolve your committee . . . By copy of this letter, the Board of Governors shall oversee the running of the school until an election is held. Your removal is with immediate effect,” reads part of the letter.

This development threw the school’s operations into disarray as the governors have no access to the school’s bank account, whose authorised signatories are the head, deputy head, SDC chairperson and vice-chairman.

The Education Act stipulates that only an SDC approved by the Minister has control of the financial affairs of the school and only the Minister can cause its dissolution.

Dr Chipunza refused to comment on the dissolution of his committee, but in a letter to St Faith’s High School parents, he said their fall-out was due to the mission fund.

“We have fallen out of favour with the responsible authority because we are objective, we question any anomalies, we are professional and ethical in our conduct. Above all, we do not follow the crowd.

“The real bone of contention is our impartial position on the issue of mission fund which they are failing to collect at St Faith’s High School. In addition, the failed privatisation of St Faith’s High School did not go down well with them, given that the greatest resistance was at St Faith’s High School,” he said.

Dr Chipunza said on January 30, 2024, the responsible authority, the SDC and school administration were summoned by the Manicaland Provincial Education Director, Mr Edward Shumba, and were instructed not to collect the mission fund or risk being charged.

“The SDC was also advised to collect and mention approved fees only. It is very unfortunate that in all this, it is our children, the learners, who are suffering,” he said.

 

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