Friday, 29 October 2021

SCHOOLS RIPPING US OFF : PARENTS

BOARDING schools in Manicaland are reportedly forcing parents to pay money for the collection of tuck for their children, capitalising on the suspension of school visits, The Manica Post can reveal.

Education authorities have since directed schools to desist from this practice, saying such costs must have been factored in the approved fees.

Investigations by The Manica Post revealed that the suspension of school visits opened a window of opportunity for boarding schools to rake in huge profits by imposing exorbitant fares for the transportation of tuck for pupils.

Parents accuse School Development Committees (SDCs) of being insensitive and taking advantage of Covid-19 regulations barring physical visits to boarding schools to exploit them.

While appreciating that the suspension of visits was part of measures to control the spread of Covid-19, parents disagreed with the manner in which SDCs were capitalising on the embargo.

The schools are demanding between US$6 and US$10 per parcel from Harare to Mutare using school buses.

Most pupils at boarding schools in Manicaland are from Harare, meaning that a school with a thousand parents in Harare will raise a minimum of US$6 000 per trip.

Most boarding schools also introduced mission fees in foreign currency this term which goes directly to the responsible authorities.

Kriste Mambo collected on October 23, charging Harare US$8 and Rusape US$5. St Faith’s High charged US$2 from Harare, and US$1 from Rusape.

Manicaland Provincial Education Director (PED), Mr Edward Shumba, said the practice was illegal, and school heads presiding over such arrangements would be charged.

“That is illegal, and we cannot expect parents to pay unapproved fees. The school heads who are doing that will face the music. That should have been factored in the approved fees,” said Mr Shumba.

Mavhudzi High School in Nyazura had initially asked parents in Harare to pay US$8 before revising it to US$6, forcing the parents to demand a cost benefit analysis.

The parents queried why they were being barred from delivering tuck when recently the school compelled them to make their own arrangements to deliver plates and other items to the school.

A notice circulated on the Mavhudzi High parents’ WhatsApp group by the school head, Ms Violet Dube, which stoked the flames reads: “We are now gravitating towards mid-term, and it is high time we began the preparations for tuck collection. The school has made provisions for tuck collection which will be done at our usual pick-up points on the following dates and times: Forms 4; 5; 6 (30 October 2021) and Forms 1; 2; 3 (6 November 2021).

“Fares for tuck collection: Harare (US$8), Marondera (US$6), Rusape (US$2) and Mutare (US$3). NB: No tuck will be collected for free. You are expected to bring the following items on the day you are submitting your tuck (i) proof of payment for second term top-up (ii) bus fare Harare (US$10), Marondera (US$8) Rusape (US$3) and Mutare (US$5). Be reminded that the tuck specifications and regulations established still apply.”

One of the parents with a child at the school, Mr Taurai Chiripamberi, accused the SDC of failing to protect the parents.

“They have no capacity to protect the parents. This is daylight robbery, considering that they are using our own school bus. Surely, does it make any sense to collect US$6 000 for a single trip to Harare when it costs less than US$300 for the bus fuel and other expenses, including their allowances.

“They need to feel for the parents. If they refuse to co-operate, as parents, we will organise our own transport. Even if the school engages courier service providers, they will not be charged US$6000 per trip. It costs less than US$450 to hire a UD truck from Harare to Nyazura,” said Mr Chiripamberi.

Another parent with a child in Form Six, who refused to be named,was equally unamused.

“They are demanding top-ups of around $12 000 as well as a mission fund of US25 per child. Now they are stopping us from delivering the tuck for our children. They want to charge us US$8per parent to deliver the tuck. It is daylight robbery. They are turning us into their own cash cow,” she said.

After the backlash from parents, the SDC backtracked, and revised the figures to US$6. “Reviewed transportation fares for tuck are as follows: Harare (US$6), Marondera (US$4), Macheke (US$3), (Headlands US$3), Rusape (US$2), Mutare (US$3).

“Take note that no parents will be allowed to bring their own tuck to the school premises due to Covid-19 restrictions. The school authorities will not be allowed to entertain individual parents bringing own tuck,” reads a message from Mavhudzi High School.

An official with the school’s Responsible Authority, Mr Fungai Mutasa, said it was cheaper for parents to pay the set fares.

“It is a few people who are complaining. The majority of the parents actually agreed because it is cheaper than driving to the school.

“Last time they charged US2, and incurred a loss, and they made an adjustment to cover fuel, wear and tear and allowance for the driver. Why are they against paying that money to the school? I would appreciate if they are saying they have the equivalent in RTGS,” he said. Manica Post

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