By Nyaradzo Mashayamombe
Every Child In School (ECIS) Campaign wishes to congratulate the government of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwean Children, ECIS partners and Tag a Life International (TaLI) for achieving the release of the Secretary’s Circular Number 3 of 2019, which comprehensively response to our petitions to both the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (of 14 December 2017) and also Parliament (2018) demanding for a policy to allow poor children into schools.
In December 2017 Tag a Life International (TaLI) supported by ZNCWC, WCoZ, ECOZI, JCT, Mambure Trust, Citizens Manifesto, GWEN Trust and more than 270 organisations across the country petitioned the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education asking for a policy to allow poor children of school going age access into schools. This was necessitated by the fact that more than 27%(Ministry of Primary and Secondary School Strategic Plan 2016-2020) of children are out of school due to lack of ability to pay the high demanded entry school fees, and other exaggerated demands by schools when a child attempts to enrol at a school for the first time, or when they attempt to re-enter schools.
The campaign went on to petition the parliament in 2018 to which parliament responded with promises to fast track the education bill (which is currently awaiting the presidential ascent). After presenting in parliament, and having various meetings with the members of parliament especially the Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education led by Honourable Priscillah Misihairambwi Mushonga, the Circular Number 3 of 2019 was released by the Permanent Secretary Mrs T Thabela. It was directed to various stakeholders for implementation. These stakeholders include; Principal Directors, Head Office Directors, Provincial Directors, Head Office Deputy Directors, Deputy Provincial Education Directors, District Schools Inspectors, Education Officers, Heads of Primary Schools, Heads of Secondary Schools, Alls Staff Associations, Responsible Authorities, Church Education Secretaries and Principals of Independent Colleges.
We note with concern however, that while this circular was released late last year, it would benefit the kids beginning this year thus for the January 2020 school term. Firstly there has not been attempt to publicise this policy by the government to ensure communities and children are aware of this instruction so that they can benefit from it. Many parents still have children at home not going to school because they cannot afford to pay school fees and other demands by schools, they are not aware of the new policy.
Secondly even for those that have attempted to enrol their children, they are still facing the same problems; schools continue to demand high enrolment fees, uniforms to be bought from their schools and other cash payments that parents do not have. This policy will only be as useful and effective if there is a clear communication to parents and communities that the policy exits, and also if the government puts in place mechanisms to monitor schools and to ensure they are complying in allowing children access into schools.
ECIS therefore makes the following Strong Recommendation:
– We commend the release of the circular by the Ministry to school authorities, however there must be clear method and strategy by the Permanent Secretary (for the ministry) to enforced as a show of commitment.
– The ministry must put in place a strong monitoring and management mechanism to show its commitment to ‘leaving no child behind’ by ensuring school authorities are motivated and monitored to actively accepting non paying kids into schools.
Each school can be asked to report on the total number of non paying kids that they accepted in their school. The school authorities can then make payment plans with the parents or guardians of these children.
TaLI Would like to thank Honourable Priscillah Misihairabwi and her Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education for her commitment to support this campaign and ensuring that Zimbabwe’s children have a fair deal.
We would also like to thank the Speaker of Parliament for supporting this as a former teacher and ensuring we had access to decision makers during our campaign, may we see this to implementation and allocation of resources to education Tag a life International (TaLI) , Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children (ZNCWC), Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ), Mambure Trust, Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), UDACIZA, Justice for Children (JCT), PROWEB, Female Students Network (FSNT), Forum for African Women Educationalists Zimbabwe (FAWEZI), Research Advocacy Unit, Higher Life Foundation, Education Coalition of Zimbabwe (ECOZI), Zimbabwe Women In Politics Alliance, Rebuild Sakubva (RESA), World Vision, Issues Pane Nyaya, Katswe Sisterhood, Zimbabwe Alliance, Girls and Women.