Patrick Chitumba Midlands Bureau Chief
THE Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has launched an investigation following complaints that Gweru’s Fletcher High school has allegedly been detaining pupils for non-payment of fees in violation of government policy. The school headmaster, Stephen Njini, is under fire from parents who accuse him of defying a government directive that pupils should not be detained for failure to pay school fees.
The government’s position is that schools should deal with parents, with an option of taking them to court to recover funds, instead of punishing pupils. A Chronicle news crew visited the school on Friday and saw scores of children detained in the hall while their peers were attending classes.
Some parents could be seen trying to negotiate with the deputy head identified only as Dhliwayo so that their children could be allowed to attend classes.Unfortunately for them, the school was having none of it. The Midlands Provincial Education Director, Agnes Gudo, said she had received a complaint from parents that their children were being detained. She said she was sending a team to the school to investigate.
“I’ve since ordered the headmaster to write a report,” said Gudo. She said the government’s policy was clear on sending away pupils from school.
“The policy is clear, it is public knowledge. Pupils should not be chased away or detained for failure to pay school fees. Schools should deal with parents,” said Gudo. One of the affected pupils said: “We’ve been coming to school and sitting in this hall. To be allowed in class you are given a card, that is if your fees has been paid.”
The pupil said at break-time and lunch hour, they are allowed to go out and mix with others but they are detained again as their classmates go back for lessons.Parents said it was inhumane to detain children. “Our children should be allowed to attend class while we look for the money,” said one parent on condition of anonymity. Dhliwayo refused to entertain any questions while Njini was unreachable.The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has warned that it will take a tough stance on school heads and administrators who defy a government directive not to send away pupils over unpaid fees. It has said schools must deal with defaulting parents instead of punishing pupils.