Increased private-public partnerships imperative in Zimbabwean education

The year 2012 comes with the beginning of a new academic year, increase in school fees and levies, expensive new uniforms and an impending strike. Even though education plays a critical role in any nation’s economic, political, socio-cultural and technological development as it helps people to participate fully in society and governance, the Zimbabwean academic year has commenced with clouds of uncertainty hanging nationwide.  It is the onus of every government to avail and fund education but this responsibility is outsized and complex for the government of Zimbabwe to meet sufficiently. It is thus imperative for the government to explore alternative means of financing and affording educational services. This article will examine how public-private partnerships can help Zimbabwe meet its education goals.

Proficient and equitable access to education is proving to be elusive to many people in Zimbabwe as often low-income families, girls and other previously marginalized groups have only limited access to education. Several Sub-Saharan countries have yet to achieve universal primary education even though enrollment rates across all developing countries increased by 4% between 1991 and 2006. The collapse of the

Corruption Increases at VID offices

Residents have expressed concerns by the increasing levels of corruption at the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) alleging that it is now impossible to pass the oral test for a provisional licence unless one bribes the officials. Residents say it costs as much as $80 to bribe the officials in order to obtain the license. Indications are that residents who do not bribe the officials are failed even if they score the minimum of 88 percent required to pass the test. This comes as a new dimension as previously bribing was concentrated only at the road tests to acquire full driving licences. Residents have called on the responsible authorities to act to deal with the corruption that is becoming endemic at the VID offices and other public offices such as the Registrar’s office, police stations and courts. As an institution that stands for accountability in governance, BPRA has previously engaged public officials over corruption in their offices. The association looks forward to engaging officials at the VID as part of its mandate to promote a culture of transparency and accountability in public office.

School summons parents over school fees

Premier High School, a privately owned learning institution in Pumula South High density suburb has issued summons to parents and guardians with outstanding balances. The summons state that fees owed to the school should be paid within a 24 hour period. One single parent reported that she has to pay $290 or have property seized by the institution. She said she owes the school tuition fees worth $232 and the added $58 goes towards payment of the messenger of court or the responsible debt collector. Some parents said the summons addressed to them were just left in their letter boxes while others said theirs were slipped under their doors. This is despite the fact that the summons require the fees to be paid up within 24 hours. Pumula South residents have previously called on the government and the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) to construct schools that are affordable as the suburb has no government or local authority owned schools. They argue that the privately owned Premier High School is unaffordable for the majority of residents.

BPRA, BA and NYDT Host Devolution Conference

Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA), Bulawayo Agenda and the National Youth Development Trust (NYDT) on Saturday 21 January 2012 held a devolution and democracy conference, which was a resounding success. The theme for the conference was “deepening democracy through devolution.”The conference brought together academics, scholars, development and political science experts, politicians, lawyers, activists and residents’ representatives to discuss the contentious issue of devolution of power and how it can lead to effective governance. The conference sought to iron out myths concerning the issue of devolution, discuss its advantages and disadvantages, analyse how other countries in Africa have implemented the concept, noting its successes and failures and come up with a model on devolution. The presentations that were made at the conference will be compiled into a journal so that members of the public can get to understand the concept of devolution of power. 

Residents dismayed by conduct of Mpilo authorities

Bulawayo residents have bemoaned the negligence of personnel at Mpilo Referral Hospital after reports that women who deliver at the institution are detained until they pay a minimum of $60 without access to bedding and food. To ensure that the women pay their balances, the hospital’s authorities confiscate their identity documents and withhold the new born babies’ birth records. It is alleged that those that fail to pay their medical fees immediately after giving birth are moved to another ward where they sleep on the floor and are not served the hospital food during meal time. This goes on amid the general decline of standards of government hospitals. Despite denial by the hospital authorities that this is taking place, BPRA has it on good authority that the hospital has resorted to these extreme measures as a way of ensuring that all patients pay fully for services rendered to them. Bulawayo residents have said they view this as a gross violation of women’s rights. They said women that deliver at government hospitals should be treated well even if they have not paid their dues. Residents opined that the Ministry of Health should intervene to ensure that hospitals respect the rights of women.

Residents opt for borehole water

Cowdray Park residents are calling in the local authority to consider drilling boreholes in the high density suburb. This comes after most of the residents have passed complaints over the city council’s lack of consistency in providing water. Some households do not have water while others go for long hours without the precious liquid as the municipality rations water. Despite that access to water is a basic human right, some household still do not have water reticulation systems. Others residents have said that they have been waiting for a long time for the city council to connect them while others said they are still to embark on the cumbersome process. Nonetheless, residents said that it would be best for them to have access to boreholes as these offer an alternative source of water and is suitable in most high density suburbs.

Residents irked by proposed BCC billing system

Residents have bemoaned the city council’s proposed water pre-paid billing system that will require residents to pay for water that will be allocated according to the payment made by each house hold. The city council has tabled this proposal in spite of the fact that the majority of residents earn paltry salaries and will not be able to afford to pay for water that will sustain them for the rest of the month. Child headed families and households run by elderly citizens will not have it easy as they do not have dependable sources of income. BPRA urges the city council to consider the less privileged when crafting policies.

Meanwhile, Cowdray Park and Emganwini residents have gone for more than ten years without electricity connection while others still do not have access to water and other sanitary facilities. When the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) consulted Cowdray Park and Emganwini residents on the introduction of prepaid meters most residents shunned the proposition. The reaction was mainly brought by the service providers’ failure to meet the needs of the people over the past years. Residents said that they will not be flattered by pilot projects that are set to hoodwink them. They called upon BCC to instead ensure that the whole city has access to clean water and sanitary facilities.

Schools turn away pupils

A number of schools in Bulawayo have turned away pupils that failed to pay up their fees in full by the date of opening. Schools turned away pupils in defiance to statements made by the ministry of education to say that schools should not turn away pupils but deal directly with parents as they are responsible for fees. Residents reported to BPRA that schools turn away children regardless of the fact that some of them are orphans. Residents said that turning away an orphan is as good as deregistering them as there is a possibility that they may not be able to raise the fees. BPRA is encouraging school heads and school development committee members to engage parents and guardians and reach a compromise that will ensure that children access their basic right to education.

Meanwhile teachers have been threatening to strike during the first month of the academic school year. Teachers are requesting the government to review their salaries after they were not awarded bonuses last year. Bulawayo residents have said that pupils bear the brunt during strikes thus want the government to address the matter urgently. The residents said that there is no hope for improving education standards if teachers are not dedicated as a result of low remuneration.