Abigail Mawonde Herald Correspondent
School Development Committees in Harare and Chitungwiza have petitioned Government over a Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education directive that levies be deposited into a Social Security Fund, barring parents’ involvement in the management of the same.
In a petition to Primary and Secondary Education Minister Dr Lazarus Dokora dated February 16, 2016, signed by SDCs in all Harare and Chitungwiza districts under the Provincial Steering Committee for Schools Development Committees banner, the parents argue that they are key stakeholders who cannot be wished away.
“The Permanent Secretary indicated that as per the auditors’ recommendations, all levies should be deposited into the SSF account with immediate effect, and all heads who had not done so should do so immediately.
“Parents are key and strategic stakeholders after Government ceded the right to fund schools in 1989. It was parents who took up that right and they did so through instruments gazetted by Government,” reads the petition.
The SDCs argued that since then, parents have made amazing contributions in the development of education countrywide.
“By circumventing the initial process, it is clear that the ministry wants to disenfranchise and marginalise parents from the sector completely,” further reads the petition.
The SDCs said it was improper for officials to be dictatorial as such attitude was detrimental to the administration of education.
“If the ministry continues to demand that levies be deposited into the SSF account, which is governed and controlled through the Audit and Exchequers Act, it means that our education is now parents-funded, in direct contravention of Section 27 subsections (1a and b) and section 75 subsections (1a and b) of the national Constitution which gives the Government the mandate to fund education in this country.”
The SDCs urged Government to consider the implications of having levies deposited into the SSF:
“The following consequences as a result of this pronouncement should be immediately addressed — what are the implications of depositing all these levies into an account, which is directly controlled by Treasury?
“What is going to be the fate of the hundreds of SDC/SDA staff who were under employment of the SDCs?
“Does the respective Act governing the SSF allow non-State/Government officers to sign such bank accounts?” reads part of the petition.
They argued that the decision taken by the ministry seriously compromised access and quality of education in the country.
“We need answers and proof that Government through consultative processes has considered all facets and legal frameworks namely, the Public Finance Management Act (Chapter 22: 19), Audit and Exchequer Act (Chapter 22:03) before giving this directive. Why didn’t the ministry plan for this and conferenced with committees before hand? The question is, who are (the) signatories to the SSF?”
The SDCs threatened legal action if the decision is not reversed.
They further claimed that “those who now want to be charged for signing the SSF account have been the major and main culprits in financial mismanagement and embezzlement and systematically corrupting procurement procedures”.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Dr Silvia Utete Masango yesterday fired vitriol at parents: “But, who are they? They were just appointed and have a one year tenure, so who are these parents? What kind of parents would want their levies abused? Is there any parent who would want to pay so that the levies are abused? Is it not that the parents will be paying for the development of the school? I do not think there would be any parent who would object to actually pay levies and ensure that the levy is actually going to enhance the teaching and learning of their kids,” she said.
Dr Utete Masango said there were cases were SDCs connived with headmasters to swindle schools of thousands of dollars.
She said she did not receive the petition even though papers in The Herald’s possession show that the document reached her office on February 17, 2016.
“I do not know about the petition. We get so many petitions, otherwise we will be disabled. If for every petition we start running and we are superintending a learner population of over four million, you can imagine what that would mean. We would then just put aside what we are supposed to do, which is a priority as we attend to petitions,” said Dr Masango.