TO foster a culture of honesty and transparency in the education sector, Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has urged schools to form integrity committees and adopt policies that will help them to prevent corruption.
In an interview on the sidelines of a United Methodist Church (UMC) school boards training workshop in the city on Wednesday, ZACC spokesperson, Commissioner Thandiwe Mlobane, said the commission believes that by involving all education sector stakeholders in the design and implementation of these policies, schools can create a conducive environment for learning and development that is free from corruption and malpractice.
United Methodist Church has 57 schools in Zimbabwe, with the majority of them being in Manicaland Province.
The ZACC team met with 19 UMC-run school boards from Manicaland, which all undertook to establish integrity committees.
“Corruption is a major obstacle to achieving quality education for all. It undermines the allocation and use of resources, selection and training of teachers, delivery and assessment of learning, and participation and empowerment of learners.
“It erodes the trust and confidence of the public in the education system, and creates barriers and inequalities for the most vulnerable and marginalised groups. Corruption also affects the moral and ethical values of the education sector as evidenced by the prevalence of sexual harassment and exploitation of girl learners by some teachers, even in schools run by religious institutions. This is a shameful and unacceptable practice that must be addressed urgently, and therefore the need to establish integrity committees in the education sector,” said Commissioner Mlobane.
She said ZACC encourages institutions to embrace integrity and good governance to prevent corruption in line with the United Nations (UN) Convention against corruption, African Union (AU) Convention against corruption and the SADC protocol which all require third parties to put preventative measures so that corruption will be eliminated.
In his address, ZACC’s deputy chairperson, Commissioner Kuziwa Murapa, praised the education sector for its role in maintaining the country’s high literacy rates among African nations.
However, he also expressed concern over the country’s low ranking on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.
The index rates Zimbabwe as Number 157 out of 180 countries on that scale.
“What this means is that there is a need to evaluate each sector and sub-sector to identify where the weaknesses are and close those gaps. Sector-specific approaches to anti-corruption reform enable stakeholders to target specific instances of corrupt behaviour and the incentives underlying them. Corruption cannot be eliminated through arrests alone, but by bringing the anti-corruption fight into your institutions,” he said.
Commissioner Murapa said corruption in the education sector erodes social trust, worsens inequality, and sabotages development.
“It threatens the well-being of society because it erodes social trust and worsens inequality. It sabotages development by undermining the formation of educated competent, and ethical individuals for future leadership and the labour force,” he said.
He also said the types of corruption in private-secondary education that have been brought to ZACC’s attention, range from academic cheating to bribery and nepotism in teaching appointments to bid-rigging in procurement of textbooks and supplies.
Commissioner Murapa said as a result, ZACC seeks to identify, expose, combat and eradicate corruption in the education sector, particularly in Church-run schools.
“Corruption in primary and secondary education affects policy making and planning, school management and procurement, and teacher conduct. Transparency and accountability promoting tools are the keys that can be used to tackle corrupt behaviour and the incentives underlying them,” he said.
Commissioner Murapa said to date, ZACC has held such trainings with 185 institutions, comprising of boards of parastatals, commissions, State-owned enterprises, State universities, banks, rural district councils, urban councils, and private sector umbrella bodies, among others.
“In all these meetings, we were able to agree that the prevention of corruption required integrity strategies to be formulated and implemented through specific integrity policies, structures and enhanced oversight mechanisms,” he said.
The schools vowed to submit to ZACC bi-annual reports: by June 30 and by December 31 on measures taken to plug loopholes on corruption, formulate integrity strategies that will guide them using a template provided by ZACC and develop integrity policies from the Prevention of Corruption tool kit.