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Govt being insensitive on school fees

editorial comment ON Saturday Zimbabwe woke up to shocking news that government had given public schools the nod to hike third term school fees up to $55 000 from $3 000. This would be a joke if it was not a serious matter considering this has been a difficult year. Poor rains meant that parents earning a living from farming failed to generate enough to keep their families away from hunger. Parents in formal employment, like their counterparts running small businesses, have been affected by firm closures and reduced business triggered by the explosion of COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic struck in March, Zimbabweans were in the eye of a raging economic storm. Foreign currency and power shortages were among the factors that were wreaking havoc to our fragile economy. It does not need a rocket scientist to see that this has been a terrible and wasted year. Government has failed to get teachers back to work because it is reluctant to listen to very genuine grievances. They want a living wage to fire up their morale to teach our children. But apart from threats, government has done little to hear them out. So, the chaos that rocked schools since examination classes returned on September 28 continues. There are no lessons taking place. More children are returning to school today and will face classes without teachers. Now, an average Zimbabwean earning under $5 000 per month is being forced to pay $55 000 to a school that is not operating. This is impossible. Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema knew this when he approved the fees. We wonder what was in his mind. He must be out of touch with reality, or he is trying to please someone. But it does not work that way, minister. It is such ill-thought decisions by ministers that make the government appear out of touch with the realities its people are facing. It’s like the ministers live in some utopian fantasy and confine citizens to dystopian existence. Mathema needs to rethink his school fees decision fast. He must explain if his strategy is to eliminate the poor from Zimbabwe’s once prosperous education system and make education a preserve for the elite. We remind him that it is this segregation that inspired Zimbabwe’s wars of liberation from 1893 to 1980. We must not revert to the same plight because Mathema is determined to turn a blind eye to the reality parents are facing.