Corruption harms education sector File picture of school children. Pic —Jeffrey Moyo
     School authorities who steal levies are being unfair to hard-working parents whose hopes for a future are solely grounded in their efforts to give their children a quality education. Pic —Jeffrey Moyo

School authorities who steal levies are being unfair to hard-working parents whose hopes for a future are solely grounded in their efforts to give their children a quality education. Pic —Jeffrey Moyo

Stanely Mushava
Education, the foremost jewel of Zimbabwe’s crown, is under threat. A series of incriminating reports in 2015 indicate that corruption has hit several parts of the sector.

Vandal tendencies at the heart of many corporate dysfunctions have torn into the education system, with embezzlement and “tenderpreneurship” demobilising gains made in this flagship accomplishment of Independence.

A countrywide audit being conducted by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has established that authorities have prejudiced schools of millions in levy scams.

With 1 800 schools (18 percent) covered by the ongoing exercise, auditors from the head office in Harare and those at provincial and district levels have already reported misappropriation of funds and doctoring of school accounts.

School authorities accused of embezzlement have been arrested and subsequently convicted, with some of them jailed for at least five years.

Deputy Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Professor Paul Mavhima recently told The Herald that the audits unearthed rampant misappropriation.

Prof Mavhima said schools collectively raise about $1 billion through levies every year, but misappropriation threatened infrastructure development at schools.

“I don’t want to paint a rosy picture.Yes, we have problems especially where School Development Committee (SDC) funds are concerned,” the deputy minister said.

“The round of audits that we did unearthed a number of problems. The most common was abuse of SDC funds and the typical problem was in the receipting process where different amounts are written in the top copy and the carbon copy.

“Typically, the top copy, because it’s going to the person who is paying the money, reflects the correct amount but the bottom copy reflects a smaller amount. The difference is then misappropriated. We need as a ministry and Government to make sure that we find ways to plug those holes,” he said.

Around a year before the current troubleshooting exercise, Auditor-General Ms Mildred Chiri released a report implicating school authorities in abuse of the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM).

Bungling by school authorities prejudiced thousands of poor pupils, comprising vulnerable and orphaned children, while several undeserving pupils, including children of rich people, unprocedurally benefited from the fund.

These administrative malfeasances demonstrate lack of an ethical basis in the education system, a sector normatively meant to the nerve centre of national development.

The implications are unsettling not least because education has been known worldwide as the key driver of economic development. Ascendant economies such as India, China and Singapore, directly trace their accession to a strong educational base.

This is hardly surprising as learning is a pre-perquisite for growing. Nations which invest liberally into education are guaranteed to garner economic rewards, notwithstanding varying rates of growth.

Administrative abuse in schools across the country is, therefore, not “one of those issues,” in the complacent lingo of the day. Rather, it scuttles Zimbabwe’s economic prospects and jeopardises a whole generation’s aspirations.

It also constitutes a violation of a fundamental clause of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. In terms of Article 75: “Every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has a right to a basic State-funded education, including adult basic education; and further education, which the State, through reasonable legislative and other measures, must make progressively available and accessible.”

The ethical meltdown in schools, epitomised by denial of the BEAM bailout for poor students, might pass for petty corruption in an increasingly permissive environment but it is nothing less than economic sabotage.

School authorities are perpetuating economic inequality and sowing the seeds of discontent. They are undermining efforts by the government to lift citizens out of poverty.

Government has made painstaking investment to empower citizens through education since Independence, shattering the bottle-necking stratagem, which was maintained by the colonial government to disenfranchise the black population, by building more schools.

Commitment to empower all Zimbabwean citizens through an affordable quality education has shone beyond the borders with the country trending well on the continent and currently unrivalled in terms of its literacy rate.

School authorities have the important mandate of consolidating these gains. Ironically, they have assumed the opposite role, setting the stage for a ruin of national proportions.

Education remained a mainstay as important sectors reeled under the assault on Zimbabwe’s economy by reactionary imperialists.

It has also been an important factor behind the country’s resilience and stability in the face of externally induced suffering.

It is up to schools to maintain this important role. Education is not only important as a technical basis for economic development but also for an elevated national consciousness, which is necessary for enriching other sectors.

As Lincoln once said: “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” A generation of leaders, and the future of Zimbabwe, is being damaged by these malfeasances.

It must be noted that parents commit themselves in prohibiting economic circumstance to provide education for their children. For most rural parents, sending children to school means selling about every valuable, chiefly cattle, as money from subsistence farming does not suffice.

School authorities are being unfair to these poor, hard-working parents whose hopes for a future are solely grounded in their efforts to give their children a quality education.

A dark cloud hangs over a whole generation due to failure by school authorities to create the conditions for dreams to flourish.

Government must be lauded for taking responsible steps to correct this abuse. Sadly, the invasive nature of corruption has also compromised the auditing as it recently emerged that auditors were demanding money from headmasters on the spot, promoting the very culture of unaccountability the exercise is supposed to fight.

There is need for an ethical foundation, oriented by national interest, to be instituted across government portfolios.

Sectors mandated with the responsibility of developing children must demonstrate a high sense of probity. Corruption, being infectious and invasive, must be completely rooted out of schools to protect the future of Zimbabwe.

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