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Nkayi parents protest school’s fee collection policies

Parents in Nkayi district with children attending Tshanke Primary School have raised grievances against the school’s approach to collecting outstanding fees, sparking a heated dispute with the authorities.

According to reports, there is growing discord between parents and the school headmaster, with allegations that the school’s actions are infringing upon children’s right to education.

Concerns have been raised regarding the legitimacy of debt collectors who have been visiting parents’ homes, issuing letters, and recently escalating to final warnings, sometimes resorting to seizing assets, including goats, from households.

“Some of these debt collectors came here last year after elections, we are not even sure whether they are authentic or not,” said a concerned parent.

Of particular concern is the alleged inflation of outstanding fees by debt collectors, causing confusion among parents regarding the actual amounts owed.

“Parents were served with the summons, those summons have inflated prices which they claim are being owed by parents, you find that someone owes US$60 but they will be told it’s US$80-US$100 which a parent will not be aware of where it’s coming from,” explained one parent.

Furthermore, parents have expressed grievances about the school’s disciplinary practices, citing instances where the headmaster reportedly punishes students for outstanding fees and alleged mistreatment by teachers.

“The headmaster beats children for the school fees they owe at school,” one parent claimed.

There are also allegations of favouritism among certain teachers based on parents’ social status, resulting in unequal treatment and arbitrary punishments.

“ Some of these teachers have more than 28 years at the school, they have long services, this is painful to us as parents because they now teach our children depending on the status of a parent, if they visit your homestead and you don’t give them dried vegetables (umfushwa) your child is in trouble, he may be kept out of class and made to seat under a tree as part of a punishment.” 

When asked about actions taken to address the situation, parents admitted their limited knowledge of appropriate channels and appealed for assistance.

“Our children’s education is now affected as it’s now all about this money feud between the school and parents,” they expressed.

In response to the situation, Taungana Ndoro, Director of Communications and Advocacy in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, categorised the issue as a civil matter, typically resolved through negotiations or court judgments.

Meanwhile, Jabulani Mhlanga from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) emphasised that debt collectors who are not lawyers are engaging in illegal activities and cannot attach people’s property without a court order.

“The position of the law is clear, a debt collector who is not a lawyer is not allowed, no one is allowed to do legal work for a fee who is not a lawyer in terms of the Legal Practitioners Act, if they are debt collectors who are not lawyers, what they are doing is illegal,” he said. 

“The other thing is they cannot attach people’s property, you can only attach if you have a court order from the relevant court, whether it’s a Magistrate court order, small claims court, High court or whatsoever.”

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