School development associations will soon lose control of development levies, with officials being brought in to monitor and administer funds collected by learning institutions.
A School Services Fund will be established at each institution to collect both tuition fees and development levies to ensure greater accountability.
Laws will be aligned to the Constitution to facilitate the changes that are part of Government efforts to curb flagrant abuse and misappropiation of money by authorities at public and mission schools.
Presently, parents deposit tuition fees and development levies in separate accounts, with SDAs largely determining how the latter are used.
A countrywide audit by the Primary and Secondary Education Ministry has revealed that more than US$1,2 billion in levies circulates in State-run and mission schools, with a chunk of it being abused by heads, bursars and SDA officials.
Some culprits have either appeared in court or been suspended by the Civil Service Commission.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail, Secretary for Primary and Secondary Education Dr Sylvia Utete-Masango said the School Services Fund was key to curbing fraud and misappropriation.
The fund is provided for in Section 38(2) of the Education Amendment Act (2006).
Dr Utete-Masango said, “We, as the ministry, have proposed a School Services Fund that will be resident at schools, with tuition fees and levies being deposited into that single account. The account will have many signatories who include parents’ representatative bodies, school heads and other SDA officials. And once the accounts are established, there will be extensive monitoring by the relevant authorities to prevent misuse of funds.
“We will concretise this proposed system after receiving stakeholder feedback. The ministry is consulting stakeholders across provinces and a team is already dealing with the feedback. Further, we are working on various Statutory Instruments and the Education Act with the ultimate objective of aligning them with the Constitution.
“And also, the accounts will help learning institutions come up with School Development Plans designed to fulfill the funding requirements necessary to spur school development.”
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president Dr Takavafira Zhou said the present system was open to abuse.
“The problem is not with SDAs, but the system that is in place which is prone to manipulation by school heads and SDA members. You will find that some heads do not have management and accounting skills, and that leaves the system prone to abuse.
“As it stands, we have two boards claiming to represent SDAs, and this causes confusion, clearing the way for looters. Therefore, there is need to overhaul that system, especially with regards to the manner in which funds are handled.”
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association secretary-general Mr John Mlilo weighed in saying: “What we are aware of as an organisation is that the ministry is thinking of various ways of regulating school development funds and there are proposals on policy changes, with the main focus being administration of SDAs and their mandate.
“The objective is to curb irregular activities. As long as management of funds is left in the hands of SDAs, the move is welcome. We don’t recommend a situation where Government will manage the funds.”sunday mail