PARENTS will pay a combined additional $10 million per term towards a new building levy that comes into effect when schools open on Tuesday. The levy is for building new schools and improving infrastructure at existing schools. The Government has introduced the levy where all primary school pupils will each pay $2 while all secondary school children will pay $5 per term.
According to Government statistics, the country has an average of two million primary school pupils who will contribute $4 million per term while 700 000 children in formal secondary schools will provide $3,5 million while 500 000 in non-formal secondary school will remit $2,5 million. The amount will top $30 million per year.
Primary and Secondary Education Deputy Minister Professor Paul Mavhima said the Government introduced the levy as a fulfillment of what Cabinet agreed last year which was announced in the budget presented by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa in November.
“All what the ministry is doing is to address the shortage of schools around the country. The money will be channeled towards servicing of bonds which will be issued after getting an approval from Cabinet. For more information on the matter you can contact the minister or the permanent secretary,” said Prof Mavhima. Efforts to get clarification from Minister Dr Lazarus Dokora were fruitless. Nonetheless, most schools already charge a separate building levy meant to address infrastructural challenges at schools. The levies are, however, administered at schools and it is not yet clear if parents will pay double, for their school levy and also contribute to the national purse.
The Government is targeting to build 2 056 more schools from the new fund. The new levy will also help in the construction of teachers’ houses in both rural and urban areas.
The infrastructure at most primary and secondary schools remains inadequate, resulting in pupils travelling long distances to school or shortening of learning periods because the enrolments are so large that teaching and learning time has to be split between sessions.
Focus on school infrastructure will be on building classrooms blocks, laboratories, libraries, sporting facilities, hostels and staff accommodation. Hence, in complementing budget financing, the Government will in 2016 vigorously pursue floating an infrastructure bond to be underwritten by School Development Associations levies. Indications are that with 3,2 million children in our primary and secondary schools, we can safely plan on revenue streams of upward $30 million per term to service such bonds,” said Minister Chinamasa while presenting the budget.
Statistics show that 69 schools will be built in Bulawayo which is the province with the least number of required schools while Mashonaland is hard hit by shortage of schools as it needs 275 schools.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Mr Sifiso Ndlovu hailed the introduction of levies as noble as it is going to make education affordable to the poor.
“Parents have been paying the building fund but in this case, the fund is now being centralised for the benefit of the whole country. This is good development where Zimbabweans will now be funding their education and the idea is very important to the development of public education. The public sector must be able to fund itself, not a scenario where our education is being funded by the private sector which makes education expensive,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Pressed to reveal the ministry’s position on pupils under Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam), the programme which is paying schools for the underprivileged children, Prof Mavhima referred questions to Minister Dr Dokora, who was not reachable.
National Association of School Development Associations and Committees president Mr Xolisani Dlamini said parents have no problem in paying the levy as they have long been paying building levies and history shows that schools in rural areas were built by parents with the assistance of the Government.
“We will pay the building fund because as parents we have been paying the money and many buildings have been built using our levy. As parents we are committed and it has been our goal to improve the infrastructure in our schools. However, we are still waiting for the clarification from the ministry on how then we will go about with this levy as parents have been paying building levy. We don’t want to be paying twice for the same product.”