GOVT: Free Education Rolling Out Next Year

LEARNERS from underprivileged communities will be the first beneficiaries of free education beginning next year under a State-funded basic education programme.

This follows an extensive nationwide study to establish the costs involved, it has been learnt.

The three-year study covering 20 schools — two in each province — sought to classify public schools by location and learners’ level of need, among other things.

The Sunday Mail has gathered that the programme will be funded through State grants to learning institutions that schools will receive in lieu of tuition and school development levies from parents and guardians.

In categorising schools for the purposes of the programme, institutions currently classified as “Group A” schools have now been reclassified as P1 (for primary schools) and S1 (for secondary schools).

Missionary schools, currently classified as “Group B” institutions, are now classified P2 and S2 schools.

Learning institutions in rural areas and poor communities (formerly Group C) have been classified as P3 and S3 schools.

Under the phased roll out of the programme, P3 and S3 schools will start receiving grants First Term next year.

The number of schools that are set to benefit from the first phase could not be immediately established as consultations with stakeholders in the education sector are ongoing.

The Government has, however, firmly committed to rolling out the programme next year.

Primary and Secondary Education Deputy Minister Edgar Moyo said a policy framework to guide implementation was being crafted.

“Our schools have been categorised in three distinct groupings for the purposes of giving them grants,” he said.

“The categorisation takes into account the location of schools. What we have done is looking at the unit cost of educating a child.

“I will not disclose that but we have already come up with a figure, which is still at the consultative stage.

“Primary learners have their own figure; the same as secondary school learners.”

Critically, learners at these schools will also be equipped with Information Communication Technology gadgets to facilitate remote learning.

The gadgets are already being assembled by State-owned tech enterprise Zimbabwe Information Technology Company (ZITCO).

Roll-out of State-funded education, he said, was informed by provisions of Section 27 of the Constitution, which enjoins the State to “take all practical measures to promote free compulsory basic education for children”.

Authorities are now exploring different funding models for the grants.

Consideration is being given to three distinct models that include direct budgetary allocations, resources from the devolution fund and the constituency development funds.

A hybrid financing model involving all three is also under consideration.

Added Deputy Minister Moyo: “We did a pilot project for three years which we called grant-in-aid-of-tuition.”

During the pilot study, authorities selected two schools per province and asked them to forgo tuition and levies during the three-year pilot period.

Government then directly funded schools for the duration of the pilot.

“It is from the pilot project that we deduced the unit cost of educating a child and, from this, the model of financing of the schools.”

There are about 4,6 million learners in close to 10 000 public schools countrywide.

“So the number of students who will receive State-funded education next year will only be known once we have completed drafting the policy.

“However, next year we are rolling out State-funded education and we are hoping it will start during the first term.”

Minister of Information Communication Technology (ICT), Postal and Courier Services Dr Jenfan Muswere said Government had already begun connecting schools to the internet ahead of the roll-out.

“We are also working with Zimbabwe Information Technology Company (ZITCO) to manufacture gadgets needed for the programme,” he said.

Educationist Dr Caiphus Nziramasanga commended the programme.

“Enrolment of learners is likely going to double once the programme starts,” said Dr Nziramasanga.

“So it is important for Government to start planning now in terms of infrastructure, textbooks and teacher recruitment.

“There is also a need for laws and policies to enforce this position going forward.”

Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) secretary-general Mr Goodwill Taderera said the programme will guarantee universal access to education.

“However, there is a need for Government to timeously disburse the funds so that there is smooth running of schools,” he added.

“Success of the programme will be determined by timeous disbursement of funds, so there is need for extensive planning.”

Last year, Government used $2 billion to provide educational assistance to 1,2 million vulnerable children through the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM).

This year, about 1,5 million learners are receiving support through a package that covers tuition fees, uniforms and stationery under BEAM. – Sunday Mail

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