The challenges of Early Childhood Education and Care
In a wide ranging interview with working parents and grade zero teachers Mywage looks at the Early Childhood Education and Care programme (ECEC) and the challenges that parents and teachers face.
Pardon Chidembo (38) of Mbizo Kwekwe has for the past few weeks been running around to secure a grade zero place for his daughter who is to begin her studies next year. He is racing against time – he has to secure a place for his daughter before year end as the schools have “limited places”.
Parents and guardians who want to enrol their children are required to fork out at least US$ 20.00 for schools in high density areas and as much as US$ 300 for “elite” schools in upmarket areas.
Paying for a decent education
Mr. Chidembo acknowledges that the desire to give his daughter a decent education is eating him.
It seems Mr. Chidembo’s dream of sending his daughter to a “better school” where she can enjoy a good education is being shattered thanks to the introduction of placement and deposit fees. “I had the option of sending my daughter to any of the council schools in my neighbourhood which happen to be cheaper, but she deserves better from me. I have to build her future today,” said Mr. Chidembo.
“The problem is that we have the festive season where I buy my children Christmas presents and eats and at the same time save for the ‘January disease’, not to mention school fees and uniforms. It is always a challenge for parents soon after the new year celebrations,” added Mr. Chidembo.
Mr. Chidembo is looking to save as much as possible from his meagre salary. But besides the worry of raising the money Mr. Chidembo’s big concern is that the funds might end up being abused by school authorities.
What’s disturbing him are reports of school authorities who are taken to court facing charges of misappropriation of funds.
Money going missing?
Recently there was pandemonium at a Mbizo school when teachers and parents besieged the office of the headmaster, accusing him of corruption and running the school like a tuck shop. Teachers are accusing him of refusing to pay them due incentives whilst parents want to know what had happened from the proceeds of leasing out furniture. Schools and colleges are fast turning out to be lucrative businesses, and crèches have also joined in.
Mrs Pangeti, a parent from Fitchlea in Kwekwe, has raised concern about how schools are being administered. She says they have joined in the fund raising drive with the introduction of “civics days” on a monthly basis.
Parents believe the trend has to be stopped and some headmasters agree.
“This was not the case before. It seems schools are abusing the education system. Government should intervene and regulate school fees and levies charged by schools,” said a headmaster.
A random survey revealed that most schools are charging at least US$ 30. If 150 pupils pay US$ 30 for 80 grade zero places they raise US$ 4 500.
School authorities justify these charges by bringing in administration and stationary expenses.
“These are acts of greed by people looking for ways of making money without the passion of educating the nation,” said Mrs, Pangeti.
Speaking to the media recently, education, sports, arts and culture Minister David Coltart said schools should only charge government-set school fees and levies. “We will need to carry out investigations to establish the truth of the matter.”
“Government never approved registration fees for securing grade zero places. School committees will have to apply to their local education offices to be granted such approval.
“The law must be complied with and any school or school development committee that fails to comply will be brought to book,” said the minister.
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