Parents with children at Lobengula Primary School in Bulawayo, Wednesday, confronted the school administration demanding compensation for the money they paid as top-up fees for their children enrolled under the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) facility.
BEAM is a government programme that provides school fees, examination fees and levies among other forms of assistance to marginalised and vulnerable children.
This issue was one of the many complaints parents highlighted in a petition to school administrators.
In their petition, parents listed a number of grievances that they want the school authorities to attend to.
Apart from the petition, parents also called for the suspension of the school headmistress (a Mudzudzu, her deputy (a Nkomo) and bursar (a Nyahanana) over these alleged irregularities.
Parents expressed their intention to escalate the issue to the Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister’s office in order to address these grievances as they had not received satisfaction from the District Schools Inspectorate (DSI) team, who left an inquiry meeting without coming up with a solution.
CITE understands that the Bulawayo Provincial Education Director’s (PED) office gave the Lobengula Primary school head an order to reimburse parents while the petition’s concerns were investigated.
“We met with the PED, Mr (Bernard) Mazambane and Ms (Jane) Ndebele. The PED told us we did a commendable job as our petition showed we had interest in the growth of our children. The PED also told us he had instructed the school head to pay back BEAM top ups,” said Farai Madondo, chairperson of the steering committee.
On Wednesday morning, the parents who had paid the top-up fees met to decide on the way forward.
It was then agreed that they seek an audience with the school head.
In the meeting, which was attended by an official from the PED’s office, the parents in the presence of the headmistress were informed that the refunds will be paid through the bank.
“You write letters to the school, address to the head, for the reference state, ‘refund for BEAM students and your child’s name then approach the school bursar for further assistance,” said the official.
Some of the parents said they did not have bank accounts, while others added they had paid the top up fees in foreign currency meaning they would lose out as that conversion to local currency would be at a lower value.
“Why didn’t the education ministry advise the school not to make us pay top-up fees because you are now creating problems for us. Now there are processes that we have, which are inconveniencing us as the parents,” said Zhwaki Lunga, the steering committee spokesperson.
The education official had no response to these sentiments, but parents decided that since “the school was the one found on the incorrect side,” it should conduct cash withdrawals for those without bank accounts.
“Parents who have bank accounts will be served faster as the school is also subjected to withdrawal limitations per week and cannot withdraw cash for all the parents but can do so for a limited number. The school also withdraws once per week meaning that the process will be delayed,” she said.