The cash-strapped government is struggling to clear Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) arrears in the process inconveniencing learners, some of whom are turned away from schools by unscrupulous authorities.
The government is paying school fees for children from less-privileged families through the BEAM facility but payments are always delayed.
Speaking during a question and answer session in the National Assembly last Wednesday, Gokwe-Chireya legislator, Tonderayi Moyo, asked Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Paul Mavima, what his ministry was doing to expedite the disbursements of BEAM funds.
“I want to find out from the Minister, Government policy regarding social security nets,” he said.
“I have in mind the Grant-in-Aid and BEAM programmes which are very important and indispensable to the underprivileged students in our schools. It has taken so long for payments to be made and some unscrupulous schools are chasing away students from schools.”
He added: “I want to find out from the Hon. Minister, what plans have they put in place so that disbursements are quickly done towards the payment of their fees?”
In his response, Mavima said despite challenges, they had made meaningful progress in the disbursement of BEAM funds.
“The last time I checked, we had paid tuition fees for the second term which is the current term except for schools that needed to comply with the reporting requirements for BEAM,” said Mavima.
“I am sure that all those schools that had complied and provided the Ministry with the requisite documents had received their disbursements. Let me also clearly indicate to this august House that there has been a lot of improvement in terms of coverage on BEAM. We had about 500 000 students last year. This year our target is 1.5 million and the resources to cover those students are there.”
He further explained: “Our coverage has become more comprehensive, to include all the requirements for those learners including uniforms, stationery that they need because we used to just cover tuition fees, but we said we needed to make sure that we are covering all the requirements for the learners. So BEAM has improved a lot and the Treasury continues to give us additional resources in order to provide a very comprehensive social net for vulnerable children.”
However, Edwin Mushoriwa, Dzivarasekwa, MP asked where the money for the expanded BEAM programme would come from.
“My supplementary question to the Honourable Minister is, he has indicated that the Ministry aims to move from $500.000 to $1.5 million with additional things like uniforms and other stuff,” said Mushoriwa.
“I have been looking in the Blue Book that was passed by Parliament. May the Hon Minister explain to this House from which pocket the Ministry gets the funds, given that the figures that we have adjusted for inflation do not warrant the assertion that the Minister has put.”
But the National Assembly Speaker requested that the question be put in writing since it involves figures.