The Sunday Mail
Thousands of pupils have failed to secure 2018 Form One boarding places following misunderstandings between parents and schools over online application deadlines.
The e-registration platform was open from early November to December 2017, with learning institutions inviting interested parents to apply for their children.
Several schools reportedly accepted applications without indicating tuition fee payment time-frames, and parents settled on paying in January.
However, many were taken aback when school authorities suddenly called, giving them at least 24 hours to settle fees to firmly secure their children’s places. Thousands ultimately lost out after failing to raise the money within that time-frame.
Only 24 000 Form One places are available countrywide against potential demand of 300 000-plus, and a survey by The Sunday Mail last week showed that schools such as Murewa, Queen Elizabeth, Allan Wilson, Prince Edward, Girls High, Mandedza, Monte Casino and Ruya filled their slots before December 22.
A parent who preferred anonymity said, “Ruya High School (in Mount Darwin) accepted my daughter’s application and called me to confirm that. The school called again several days later, this time to inform me that tuition fee payment was due in just two days!
“I was stunned; where would I get the money at such short notice? Like many other parents/guardians, I presume, I planned to pay in January. My daughter has no option but to enrol at a day school.”
An official at Allan Wilson High School in Harare told parents who had visited the institution last week, “If you failed to pay boarding fees during the time we were open, I am sorry; we cannot help. Offers have already been made to those who could pay straight away. You can check next Tuesday, but I am not promising anything.”
Zimbabwe Teachers Association national secretary Mr Tapson Nganunu Sibanda chipped in: “This system is problematic, especially for those in rural areas as they do not have Internet connectivity. This is why many could not meet tuition fee payment deadlines.
“They have to travel long distances to verify the status of their children’s application accounts. Many parents relaxed, thinking they would check in January, only to be told they had to pay or lose places.”
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Professor Paul Mavima said the matter was between parents and schools, and unsuccessful applicants should attend day school.
“There are schools of choice. If you want your child to get a place there, then you have to run! That’s what parents should know. Competition for schools like Monte Casino, Kriste Mambo, Goromonzi and others is intense, so if you get a place there, you really have to move with speed.
“Parents are well aware that fees should be ready on application. This habit of trying to bend formal rules is not found anywhere else in the world. We negotiate for everything, and it is also a matter of improper planning.
“This is why some schools are now being abusive to parents, demanding US$750 for uniform. We cannot allow that. There has to be a selection process.”
Prof Mavima said no e-registration hiccups were experienced this time around unlike at the system’s inception in 2016.
“Generally, the number of online applicants has increased and very few cases of failure to log onto the system were reported. Parents who were not conversant with the set-up either visited schools or called the ministry’s task team.
“We have been working with schools that had not moved online and almost all of them are now there. This system has never been used in other countries except in university applications. Zimbabwe is the first.”
The minister said schools will not increase fees on the back of basic commodity price hikes, and highlighted that the School Feeding Programme will continue in 2018.
“Schools talk to us if they need to increase fees; they cannot raise them without the Secretary’s approval. They have to write to the Secretary, providing justifying reasons for the proposed increase. So far, we have received none.
“Regarding the feeding programme, we have been receiving grain from Government, with a stockpile already available. Schools will resume collection when first term begins. We have been doing this at primary school level, mainly targeting infant grades, but schools with capacity have been covering all grades.
“Sustainability in schools involves continuously sourcing resources from the community and that community has to have impetus to produce. So, an economic ecosystem develops there. Brazil is a good case study of a sustainable home-grown scheme.
“The school should have finances; that’s the sustainability model. Glen View 2 Primary School in Harare is an example. They can make up to US$100 000 per year from income-generating projects and purchase whatever they require for the scheme.
“Some rural schools have good heads who have now done fish ponds. They harvest fish and sell them at good prices. Imagine a rural school raising US$20 000 per year.”