Legislators are pushing for the banning of the Better Schools Programme Zimbabwe (BSPZ) citing abuse of funds.
BSPZ was established in the late 80s as part of efforts to improve the quality of education and services provided by schools.
It involves the pooling of resources for all schools.
However, some schools are said to be abusing BSPZ funds.
Gokwe-Chireya legislator, Tonderayi Moyo, said: “…Participants argued that the BSPZ should be banned, with the collection of revenue stopped as a matter of urgency because it was illegal. Participants noted that a significant amount of money that should be used to purchase furniture and learning materials at a local school was being diverted, thereby disadvantaging children.”
He said there was no legal framework for BSPZ, hence there was no uniformity in the collection and use of the funds.
Moyo said the programme has too many loopholes due to lack of a legal framework, particularly on transparency and accountability in the use of funds.
He said the funds were no longer used for the benefit of learners, but for allowances by Ministry officials.
“BSPZ is increasing the burden on parents who are already struggling to pay tuition levies and fees,” Moyo said.
In Masvingo the portfolio committee on Primary and Secondary Education reported that the BSPZ demanded an affiliation fee of US$2 per child for primary school and US$5 per child in secondary schools respectively. In Midlands, Matabeleland South, North and Gokwe, 50 cents per child in primary schools and a dollar in secondary schools.
Moyo said ordinarily these fees were meant to go towards schools for the purposes of capacity building, research, setting common mock examination tasks and to help those lagging behind but the findings of the Committee saw that there were several discrepancies in terms of the uses of the funds.
Another legislator, Johnson Madhuku also said: “As we noticed when we moved around, this programme has now become a cash cow for the Ministry, doing very little to improve the quality of learning and teaching in our schools.
“With this money, different districts and provinces have built very beautiful structures – what they call resource centres and we have also noticed that some districts have bought lodges which they are running in their districts and collecting a lot of money because they are renting out or hiring those lodges. They have also bought very expensive 4X4 vehicles, buses and so on. So there is a challenge in the absence of a legal instrument.”
Madhuku said parents were not happy.
“(Parents) are saying the money could have been used to purchase infrastructure and other learning and teaching materials. But, in the absence of the legal framework, these subscriptions are open to abuse and a lot of other nefarious uses. This is in total breach of Section 298 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe on Principles of Public Financial Management which calls for transparency, accountability, prudence and economical spending of money.” Madhuku said.
Another lawmaker, Muchaneta Muchenje, said there has not been an improvement since the BSPZ was introduced.
“If you look at most schools, the standards have gone down, the parents are the ones carrying the heavy load on the schools. After paying for BSPZ, they pay school levies and school fees to the Ministry. In the rural areas, they work hard in the physical construction of the schools. As far as I am concerned, that is a heavy burden to the parents who sent their children to school,” Muchenje said.
“That fund is being abused and schools are not getting the necessary benefits. In Mberengwa, we were told that that fund is being abused because there is no provision for the tracing of those funds.”