Felex Share Herald Reporter
THOUSANDS of textbooks donated to primary and secondary schools countrywide under the Education Transition Fund have flooded the informal market.
There are reports that some officials involved in the distribution of the books diverted them for personal benefit.
It is alleged the scam also involves school officials as some of the textbooks bear school stamps.
This prompted the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe to launch a blitz on textbook vendors in Harare yesterday.
The union has since enlisted the services of the police in the blitz.
The union confiscated the books before handing them over to the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture offices.
Illegal textbook dealers are selling the donated books for between US$7 and US$10.
However, some versions of the same textbooks sold by city bookshops are ranging between US$12 and US$20.
ETF is a Government-initiated programme being coordinated by Unicef and other donors.
The fund, which has seen more than 22 million textbooks being distributed to primary and secondary schools countrywide, was established three years ago to mobilise resources for the education sector.
Interviewed textbook dealers yesterday said they were buying for resale the books from “education officials,” while others claimed they were salespersons for “big people”.
“This is not our problem. I buy them for US$3 or US$4 from my suppliers. I do not know where they get them,” said one vendor at the corner of Nelson Mandela Avenue and Leopold Takawira Street.
Another vendor added: “I work for someone and he is the one who supplies me with the books. What I only take is my commission and I don’t know where he gets them from.”
The textbooks on the streets are marked “Unicef” and bear a court of arms inscribed “Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture”.
ETF provided basic textbooks in English, Mathematics, Science, History and Indigenous Languages.
Education, Sport Arts and Culture Minister David Coltart, yesterday said the books were Government property and not for sale.
“I don’t know how the books end up in the streets because they went to the schools through our provincial offices,” he said.
“It appears there are corrupt elements in the distribution exercise or some school authorities are stealing them.
“As a country, it means we will never develop if corruption is not stamped out.”
Parents, he said, should stop buying the books as this “fuels” corruption.
He said Government was in the process of completing its “mop-up” to ensure that all schools received the textbooks.
“There are some schools which did not receive the books due to technical problems and Government is in the process of filling the gaps through the mop-up exercise. The books are not in short supply and parents should not buy from the street.”
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary general, Mr Raymond Majongwe, yesterday said the proliferation of unregistered colleges was providing a “ready-market” for the textbook dealers.
He alleged that some teachers were also stealing the textbooks to supplement their “meagre” salaries.
“The private colleges were not given the books but we hear they also have those ETF textbooks,” he said.
“These are some of the people providing the dealers with a ready market and should be stopped.
“School officials are also involved because most of the textbooks we confiscated bear stamps of schools like Rakodzi High School in Marondera. It becomes clear that someone from the school is taking them out.”
Mr Majongwe said only a joint operation between teachers unions, police and ministry officials will stop “the rot”.
“What is needed is a well co-ordinated operation because there are many people in the rural areas who continue to suffer because of greedy people. If we don’t do that it means the poor will continue getting poorer,” he said.
Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe chief executive Mr Manuel Nyawo said those involved in the distribution were to blame.
“It means the books are not reaching the intended beneficiaries and the big loophole is in those distributing the books,” he said.
“This has to stop and Government should immediately find a solution.”