Some teachers who conveniently took advantage of the recent reopening of schools to bilk parents and guardians through ‘forcing’ them to unprocedurally pay for extra lessons have been arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC).
Government banned teachers from conducting extra lessons for an additional fee and promised to take disciplinary action against those caught offside.
According to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, no parent must be charged to have their children taught outside normal hours or weekends.
Investigations by The Sunday Mail Society reveal that some extra lessons are pegged at an average US$3 or equivalent per week for primary school learners, while secondary school learners are paying not less than US$5 per subject.
The money is paid directly to the teacher and no receipts are issued.
Normal classes are running from 8am to 12pm before extra lessons begin.
A Glen View 3 parent whose daughter is in Grade Six pleaded for the authorities to intervene.
“We need the Government to intervene urgently … We are being forced to pay for extra lessons because teachers are neglecting normal classes, which has left us without a choice but to pay for extra lessons. The sad part is what the class covers during extra lessons will not be repeated during normal lessons,” she said.
Another parent who only identified himself as Baba Taku is equally disgruntled.
“Authorities need to take action. It seems like we are facing the same problem each school term. If these rogue teachers are punished, we will have sanity in schools. We cannot be forced to pay two different school fees for the same student,” he fumed.
His colleague added: “I failed to pay for my son this week (last week), so he has not been attending the lessons. He will be home after midday and I have to personally tutor him.”
ZACC has, however, moved in, but insists there is need for a law that specifically criminalises conducting extra lessons for a fee.
“The commission is in the process of investigating some teachers who have been fingered for conducting paid-for extra lessons in schools around provinces. Some of the teachers have already been apprehended while dockets are ready for other identified culprits,” revealed the commission’s general manager for prevention and corporate governance, Dr Munyaradzi Magiga.
“Unfortunately, we cannot divulge the numbers at the moment as investigations are still ongoing.”
Affected parents have become whistle-blowers.
“Several schools and teachers around the country are being investigated following leads we received and appropriate action will be taken thereafter. Also, we have been visiting some schools doing compliance checks as well educating them on issues of corruption in schools,” added Dr Magiga.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education’s director of communications and advocacy, Mr Taungana Ndoro, said there could be dire consequences for those who break the law.
“Some of the teachers are already under probe by ZACC and risk losing their jobs,” he said.
Parents who continue cooperating with the teachers on paid extra lessons, he added, are making it difficult for Government to deal with the rot.
“Parents should not be siphoned by teachers, and school heads and should report any such acts. They need to bring this to our attention so that we take action.”
Mr Ndoro said extra lessons are only allowed in special circumstances.
Schools even have the leeway to conduct holiday lessons if teachers identify gaps, but they are not supposed to bill parents and guardians.
“Because of the prolonged holidays, Government understands the need for extra lessons for learners to catch up, but schools still have to follow the proper procedure and the lessons should not be paid for.
“Schools can only conduct these lessons with Government approval and the lessons should not supersede normal classes or turn into money-spinners. The approval only comes after the school submits an application to the ministry justifying the need,” he explained.
After the approval, schools are supposed to set dates and times, and make sure lessons do not interfere with normal classes.
Schools started operating full-throttle on September 6, a week after exam classes resumed following a long Covid-19-induced break.
Learners were last in school on June 3 as the country battled to contain rising coronavirus deaths and infections.
However, relief brought by the welcome development to learners and parents has been short-lived.
Rogue teachers are tactically neglecting their duties during official working hours so that they do not complete the syllabi on time to push learners to enrol for extra lessons.
And the move is having adverse effects on learners, most of who currently lag behind in their studies due to the unusually long holiday that preceded the current school term.
Resultantly, parents have been left with little or no option but to comply with the teachers’ demands.
There are fears learners whose parents or guardians cannot afford the fees might be left behind.
While daring teachers are openly conducting lessons within school premises, some are being done in makeshift schools at their homes, particularly in high-density suburbs.
However, Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Dr Sifiso Ndlovu reckons there is need for a holistic approach to solve the issue.
“While we do not condone what is happening in schools, it is not fair to entirely blame teachers. Currently, we have the Covid-19 pandemic and learners have been home for too long.
“Even though the schools have reopened, they are operating on a day-in, day-out basis and this is not favourable for any learner. The truth is that some parents are actually approaching teachers, begging them to conduct these lessons, offering to pay something in return,” said Dr Ndlovu.
He also said authorities should introduce measures that will guarantee the resumption of normal classes throughout the schooling calendar.
“Teachers’ welfare should also be looked into so that they are not tempted into taking offers from parents. There is a need for Government to look into the entire system, which is the architecture and model that we are using in schools.”
Similarly, Zimbabwe Schools Development Committees/Associations (ZSDC/As) secretary-general Mr Everisto Jongwe called for collaborative efforts among stakeholders.
“Parents are already burdened by Covid-19 and are finding it hard to afford school fees, hence making them pay for extra lessons is inhumane. In this situation, it means that those who cannot afford the extra lessons are being infringed of their right to education. We cannot have a situation in school whereby some learners are being discriminated against because of poverty,” he said.
However, he also notes the need for Government to look into the welfare of teachers as part of measures top deal with the recurring problem. Sunday Mail