The Sunday Mail
The GOVERNMENT will this month start disbursing Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) funds to schools, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Torerayi Moyo has said.
Addressing school heads and inspectors from across Mashonaland West province at Musengezi High School on Thursday, Minister Moyo said his ministry had engaged Treasury to release the funds on time to allow schools to operate smoothly.
“I am happy to announce that starting this month, BEAM funds will be released. I know you are owed huge sums,” he said.
The funds to be disbursed this month amount to around $90 billion, dating back to 2022.
Minister Moyo said while the Government provided for the less-privileged by paying their fees under BEAM, the facility should not be abused. Some parents or guardians who can afford paying fees, he added, were utilising the facility.
The funds cover school fees, uniforms and other educational expenses for eligible learners.
Meanwhile, the minister reiterated that school authorities should consult parents and guardians on increases in fees and levies, before sending the figures to the ministry for approval.
This comes as some school heads were reportedly working in cahoots with district and provincial school inspectors to raise fees and levies without parents’ consent, and sending the fraudulently agreed figures to the ministry for approval.
According to the regulations, no fee or levy increments or top-ups should be demanded from parents and guardians before being approved.
Minister Moyo challenged school authorities to follow the guidelines on fee and levy hikes.
It is at annual general meetings where such issues are discussed and agreed on and at least 20 percent of a school’s parents must attend.
The minister said while Government policy is that no learner should be sent away for non-payment of fees, it is the duty of every parent and guardian to pay fees for their children.
He added that those facing challenges should engage the school heads and make payment plans while the child is in class.
“It is so embarrassing to the child to be called out in class to go home because you have not paid your fees.
“Can you imagine how that child feels in front of his or her colleagues? It is not the child’s fault if fees are not paid,” he said.
“Write to the parent or guardian to report to the school and engage for purposes of finding common ground, instead of embarrassing the child.”
Another way schools can get parents to pay is to draft a petition, which can be presented to Parliament. The minister said the ministry is concerned by the tendency of school heads to withhold results due to non-payment of fees.
“If you invite parents for meetings, they will appreciate paying on time.
“Do not withhold results because you are disadvantaging the child. I am urging you to release those results without delay.
“You can then engage debt collectors as they do not even need money from the school, but will get their money from the said parent. It (withholding of results) is a strategy, yes, but it is not right,” he said.
Minister Moyo also challenged school heads to be innovative and set targets for their institutions towards achieving high pass rates.
The ministry is set to introduce awards for schools that achieve high pass rates.
For the 2023 results, Dudley Hall Primary School in Norton, Mashonaland West, was voted the best after 69 percent of the learners got distinctions.
“We are introducing awards to headmasters and teachers who perform to their best, as has been done by Dudley Hall. On March 14, 2024, we will be presenting our award to Dudley,” he said.
For this year’s awards, he said, the ministry is partnering the United Nations Children’s Fund and other stakeholders to identify talent among schoolchildren for purposes of advancing learners in all disciplines, including soccer, netball, athletics and chess.
He urged teachers and school heads to upgrade themselves to cope with current changes in the sector.
“I did not say we want PhDs for school heads. We cannot force you to do a PhD, because even at our universities, how many are holders of PhDs?
“We are not forcing you, but just encouraging you to upgrade yourselves,” he explained.
The ministry, he added, was almost through with the revision of the curriculum, with more focus on the continuous assessment learning activities (CALAs), which he said were implemented in a haphazard manner.
He stated that if CALAs are to be accepted back, the ministry will first invite school heads and teachers for training.
The minister encouraged school heads to work hand-in-glove with school development associations (SDAs) for the development of the learning institutions.
He said the Government had come up with a statutory instrument that would merge SDAs and school development committees (SDCs) for both private and public schools.
Minister Moyo also reminded school heads to follow procedures when acquiring school property.
Speaking at the same event, Member of Parliament for Chegutu East Cde Webster Shamu raised concern over corruption in schools.
“You must be transparent when it comes to issues to do with school funds.
“A lot is happening in our schools, where parents and school authorities sometimes engage in confrontations over misuse of funds.
“Just be transparent and develop your schools, working in harmony with SDCs,” said Cde Shamu.