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'A flight of emotions': The experience of Mushumbi High School 2017 AGM

06 Mar 2017 at 22:17hrs | Views
The atmosphere at the recently held Annual General Meeting at Mushumbi High School was punctuated by hauling of insults and trading of emotions between the parents on one side and the SDC and the school administration on the other. The situation almost turned into a circus to an extent that the Officer Commanding Z R Police Mushumbi present at the AGM had to intervene to quell the emotions that flew between the two protagonists. But the question that begs an answer is what has gone wrong with the school that parents were visibly agitated?

Mushumbi High School is a Government boarding school in Mbire District 260km from the capital city Harare. Saturday 25th of February 2017 was the day an Annual General Meeting was held and parents gathered to see the development at the school. The meeting was supposed to start at 1000hours but it end up starting at 1330hours due to delays in the arrival of the bus they hired to ferry parents from Harare. The school bus had gone to Matopos for President's birthday celebration.

Upon arrival the parents mostly from Harare made a tour of the school premises. Looking at the school structures particularly the boys hostel, the dining hall and the fire place were the food is prepared many parents were left wondering what their boarding fees was being used for. By the time the AGM started their ‘emotional batteries' were dangerously charged. Of much concern to the parents was the absence of the following; computers, piped water, agriculture tools and field for garden, proper toilets, science blocks and projects as is the case with other schools. At previous AGMs parents were told that the school had acquired computers only to realize at this meeting that the said computers were being hired and had since been returned to the owners.

The parents were equally worried that their pupils that have been doing computers for the past two to three years are getting disadvantaged. Parents also complained on quality of work given to learners parents pointed to Geography and History form 1 as well as lower 6. One parent asked the Head "what criteria are you using for supervision since work given to learners shows that there is nothing being done at the school". Defensively, the Headmaster said most of my teachers are young, are not seasoned teachers. Parents were totally unconvinced.

A question was raised by one parent concerning lack of bricks to learners doing building studies. When the Head of the school confessed ignorance of the situation one parent quickly fired a salvo at the head, "if you are ignorant of what happens in a department under your authority then it means your stay here is useless" amid the loud acknowledgements from the majority of the parents. Even when the parents were told that the school's pass rate has been on the rise since he took over to 38% parents were still not happy as some argued it be the result of a few hardworking teachers. There was also issue the rotten meat fed to children.

The issue of bullying was discussed and was noted that the boarding master and the matron were not doing their duties. Parents figured out that security guards at the school were not being properly paid hence security around the pupils leaves a lot to be desired. Quite disturbing were some cases of pupils who can urinate on other pupil's beds and one parent fumed after his child discovered that someone had relieved himself on his bed. There are some complains of nak*d wires, poor lighting and locks on the door. And once again the Head appeared totally unaware. Parents concluded that there was no protection given to their children. The unhygienic state of the hostels and the toilets left many parents pondering their next move. It may not be surprising that the drastic drop in enrolment can be traced to poor service delivery.

The other target of the parents' ire was the Deputy Head whom they accused of being too arrogant and lacking knowledge. Luckily the Deputy Head did not attend the AGM for unknown reasons. Some parents from Harare charged that they were insulted by the Deputy and wanted to vent their anger at him. Some accused the Deputy of abusing the school bus to go and buy his belongings. The Head appeared surprised at these accusations and one wonders whether these accusations were genuine or not or probably some kind of skull had been drawn from the drawer. When accusations were flying from one end to the other there was a section of people purportedly some workers at the school who whistled and shouted in approval giving signal that all is not well. Reports are that he is always off duty and when off duty learners will be doing nothing. When parents complained some workers were happy that their predator was being exposed. It is said the Head and his Deputy are always mobile and one wonders what kind of school business they are fulfilling. That culture seemed to have permeated into the staff as reported by some local parents who expressed concern over the number of journeys the Head and his Deputy make every week.

During the deliberations the outgoing SDC chairperson Mr John Chifise dominated all the questions trying to justify their actions or defending the Head that appeared out of sorts in the face of vitriol from the parents over deteriorating standards at the school. This only served to strengthen the parents' resolve to boot them out.

It also emerged at the meeting that the SDC workers were owed a huge amount by the school in salary arrears stretching back to November 2015. The parents were concerned that the school was failing to pay its workers when most them paid their fees in full. Moreover the financial statement presented at the meeting showed that the school had surplus funds yet workers are going for months without pay. It led some parents who were critical of the outgoing SDC to conclude that there was gross misrepresentation of figures to mask the financial rot at the school. One parent questioned why is it the staff were paying themselves their allowances yet workers were not getting their salaries. Looking at the budget proposals parents complained about figures presented for travelling and subsistence allowance which was too high while there were salary arrears and one parent asked "chii chakakosha salary or allowance". For the year 2016 the school incurred travelling and subsistence allowances in excess of $ 22 000.00 yet for the same period not even a single dollar was spent on textbooks. That means there was little or no investment on the learner for the entire year. The school is reported to rely on hired services for grounds work yet it has a full complement of grounds staff thus further burdening the school.

The temperature rose when the time to elect a new committee came. It was a nerve-wrecking atmosphere but from the inaudible interjections, there was no doubt what result people wanted. The parents had had enough of the leadership of Mr Chifise but the man would not go without a fight. The resident Councilor for ward 9 Ms. M Musarurwa presided over the elections. The Head made some spirited efforts to try and influence the outcome of the elections and have Mr Chifise returned but the parents had made their minds and decided to use their vote to speak their mind. He even blocked the nomination of some candidates and people were left wondering what his interests were. Nonetheless, even before the results were announced there were celebrations from some section of the community giving evidence of a dark era from which they had been freed. The writing was on the wall. The outgoing chairperson polled a paltry 18 and the least of all after several recounting. That the Head made an effort influence the polls in favour of the outgoing chairperson could be a sign of an unholy alliance between these two men and only time can tell what is under the carpet. It remains to be seen how the new committee, which includes two members retained from the previous committee, is going to steer the ship in these turbulent waters.

There are so many questions that beg answers.  In the not so distant past Mushumbi high school hit the headlines in the local daily when goats found space in the classrooms making a mess of the school premises. Why all of a sudden the school find in this situation where one of the stakeholders seemed to have totally lost confidence in the leadership of the school in spite of improvements in the school's pass rate? The SDC under the leadership of Mr Chifise had received unwavering support from the parents over the past four or so yes it had been in office. But why this sudden hostility? The school compares badly to other schools in the same category as itself in terms of the state of infrastructure, sporting and academic performance. This points to the quality of leadership of that school and only the responsible authority can explain how that leadership found itself there because to the parents it is "useless". This is not to say that the parents' criticism is the correct one but there is no denying the fact among the parents are also very educated people who came through this education system and have an appreciation of quality education mean.  A group of old students calling themselves MPOSA recently donated some bond paper to the school as part of community efforts to plough back into the school that nurtured them. Some members of MPOSA have however expressed concern over the appalling state of the school particularly infrastructure.

Now with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary education introducing a new curriculum it remains to be seen how far Mushumbi could achieve the objective of successfully implementing this curriculum with the current state of infrastructure and incompetent leadership? Only a thorough investigation into the affairs of Mushumbi particularly financial management or mismanagement and supervision could be a step in the right direction to restoring sanity at the school. The school remains a bubble of potential for attaining excellent results.

Source - Concerned parent
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