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Pupils blocked from writing exams over outstanding tuition fees

by Staff reporter
24 Oct 2013 at 02:51hrs | Views
A NUMBER of schools are blocking pupils from writing examinations over outstanding tuition fees and levies including those under the Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam).

Among the affected schools are Buvuma and Sukwi secondary schools in Gwanda District, Gohole Secondary and Cyrene High School in Matobo District.

Some of the schools are already barring pupils with outstanding arrears from attending lessons.
Ordinary Level practical examinations started on Tuesday while Advanced Level examinations are set for Monday next week.

The development has drawn the ire of parents in the affected schools who are accusing the school authorities of trying to destroy the future of their children.

"Our children are being sent back home a few days before writing their final examinations over unclear arrears," fumed a parent with a son at Cyrene High.

"My child is in Form Four and I paid all the fees. Right now I am being told that I owe the school. Why are they sending them away ahead of examinations?"

The parents said the timing of the chasing away of pupils was wrong as it affects children's preparations for the examinations.
"The school should engage parents when there is a concern over payment than send pupils home at this hour," said the parent.

Parents from Gohole Secondary near Maphisa Growth Point expressed the same concerns. However, a member of the School Development Association identified as NakaSicelo admitted that the school sent pupils home to remind parents of their arrears but refuted claims that they were barred from writing examinations.

"We did not bar anyone from writing examinations. We only sent pupils to go home to collect fees but some of them did not come back.
"Some of the parents have not paid anything since January this year. School fees are $30 per term and how are they going to manage it now at $90 for three terms," said the SDA member.

Meanwhile, there was a heated debate over the issue during a Gwanda Rural District Development Committee meeting where councillors demanded that the matter be addressed urgently.

They expressed concern over delays in the disbursement of Beam funds and implored schools to be lenient with pupils under the programme.

The Beam facility is meant to assist pupils from poor families who cannot afford to pay fees.
There were also reports that some parents with pupils under Beam were being sued by schools for failing to pay the fees to fill in the gap caused by the Government delays to release the money to the schools.

Councillor Enock de Souza of Ward 15 said some schools had engaged debt collectors over arrears.
"Some schools have engaged debt collectors and there is no selection of children when it comes to payment, whether your child is under Beam or not.

"Parents of pupils under Beam are failing to pay because of poverty and that is unfair," he said.
Clr de Souza said it was not proper for schools to sue parents who were already struggling to make ends meet.

He said schools should appreciate the plight of parents and appealed for Government intervention on the matter.
During the meeting it was agreed that parents would be refunded their money after the release of the funds by the Government.
The participants said parents with pupils under Beam should not be sued as it was the responsibility of Government to release the money.

The councillors also said pupils under the Beam facility should be exempted from payment of  incentives.
Responding to the concerns on behalf of the district education officer, Mr Gibson Sibanda said although there were challenges facing the Beam programme, schools should not send pupils away as the Government was responsible for payment of their fees.

He said sending away pupils deprived them of their right to education.
"Pupils under Beam are not supposed to be sent away and school heads are aware of that. They are also not supposed to pay incentives," said Mr Sibanda.

The Government is yet to release Beam payments for this year to secondary schools in Gwanda District.
The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Cde Lazarus Dokora, could not be reached for comment yesterday as his mobile phone repeatedly rang unanswered.

The Government is on record as saying schools should not send pupils away over fees but should engage parents who they have a contract with.

Source - Southern Eye