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Govt bans sending away of pupils over fees

Government has banned schools from chasing away pupils for failure to pay fees after civic society organisations pressurised it to commit to a previously announced pledge on the matter.

The policy is expounded in the Primary and Secondary Education Ministry Circular Number 3 of 2019 document released in August last year, but had not been widely publicised.

Primary and Secondary Education ministry's 2020 strategic plan says that 27% of school-going children are failing to attend school because they cannot afford the fees.

Tag a Life International (TaLI) executive director Nyaradzo Mashayamombe yesterday said the 27% might be an understatement, adding that the percentage of poor children who are out of school for failure to pay fees can be as high as 40%.

"Two weeks into schools opening, it is business as usual and poor children are being sent out of school as nothing has changed despite that there is a new policy on access to education for all," she said.

"The policy needs to be publicised and we want the ministry to find out if school heads are implementing the circular to ensure children without fees have access to education and to demand reports on how many poor children have been accepted."

Last year, TaLI, the Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children (ZNCWC) supported by the Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ), Education Coalition of Zimbabwe (ECOZI), Justice for Children Trust, Mambure Trust and 270 other organisations across the country petitioned the Primary and Secondary Education ministry and the Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga led Portfolio Committee on Education pushing for an "every child in school" policy to allow poor children into schools.

Section 5.3.1 of the policy reads: "No school-aged child shall be denied a place at any registered school or turned away from school on the grounds of failure by the parents/guardians to pay fees and/or levies. The same applies to denial of school entry on the grounds of disability, lack of birth registration documents, inadequate uniforms and other forms of discriminatory practices."

The policy circular further stipulates non-discriminatory practices at schools, adding that learners with significant needs should be enrolled first and then referred to the Learner Welfare, Psychological Services and Special Needs Education Department.

"If the nearest school to the child's home is full, the receiving head should place the applicant on a waiting list and facilitate enrolment at the next school, instead of sending the clients away unassisted," section 5.5 of the policy circular reads.

On failure to pay fees by the parents or guardians, the policy stipulates that school heads must be proactive and negotiate flexible arrangements to ensure uninterrupted access to education by the learner.

Sections 27 and 75 of the Constitution states that every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has the right to a basic State-funded education.

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