Home » Arts & Culture » To All You Parents – Education Can Never Be Free

It is back to school season again.

Earlier this week, I was happy to see some responsible parents paying school fees through various banks.

Others could be seen stocking up on winter uniforms and winter wear for their children for this upcoming term.

Seeing them running around like this showed me that we still have responsible parents in our midst the kind of parents who know that school fees have to be paid and on time too that children’s uniforms have to be bought that school groceries for those in boarding school are a must and those who know that children will have requirements every new school term. That is what parenthood is all about.

It thus becomes a bit disturbing when we hear reports of institutions that virtually grind to a halt because parents want their children to go to school for free.

When Government announced earlier in the week that parents who owe schools in fees and levies can now be sued rather than have children kicked out, doubts were raised about the practicality of all this.

While fully acknowledging Government’s responsibility to ensure that everyone has access to an education, including the poor, it is also a fact that some parents have become perennial bad debtors.

They just never pay school fees – even when they can afford to – because they know that school heads have no powers to send their children home for non-payment.

How many times have we read of parents who cry foul and report school heads to the authorities every new school term because they have not paid fees?

Yes, the truth is that times are tough and cash is hard to come by, but if parents who can afford do not pay school fees, how do they expect the schools to run and keep providing services?

All schools have sports fields with grass, which needs to be cut.

They have swimming pools that should be maintained.

They also have toilets that must be kept clean and boreholes that must be kept functional.

The schools also have teachers who are largely disenchanted with the low salaries that they are getting. So if we add to this by refusing to pay fees, what are we saying?

Note that I use the term “refuse to pay fees” quite deliberately. There are parents who just do not pay. They are not poor. We exempt the poor who have honestly failed to raise the money through any trade, The fact is parenting comes with responsibility and if any able-bodied adult is going to choose to bring a child into this world, then they should face up to the tough task that comes with raising that child.

Growing up in Highfield many years ago, none of us in the family or community failed to make it to school because of fees. We would not get new uniforms or satchels every term but the fees were paid.

School was that important to our parents. This is when many couples opted for as many as six to eight children and men were largely the breadwinners. But those fathers of old had the discipline to ensure that school came first even if the family ate sugar beans or covo until things improved.

But today we have parents who will first pay for DSTV before fees, forgetting that it is too much television that has seen our children become obese and not too sharp in school anyway.

We have parents who pimp their cars first before settling it with the child’s school. We have fathers who have to be taken to court first before they pay fees and meet their children’s requirements.

We have parents who will literally eat three-course meals daily at home, get some Peruvian hair, fix their nails and the latest labels in clothes and then frantically run around at the last minute to look for fees from money lenders.

We have fathers who drink expensive whisky and whose entertainment schedules are so busy but who will have plenty of stories for their children’s schools, come first week of school.

By instructing schools not to chase away any children in the past, Government has been protecting this lot of parents by default. The parents we are talking of here can afford school fees but will not pay it willingly.

For some reason they think education should be provided for free. Let us wake up to our reality here Zimbabweans. While Government is committed to education for all, does it have the capacity to avail education for free currently? The truth is someone must pay for a service to be provided.

Surely, it is not too much to ask to have parents who can meet some of the costs? Fees in Government schools are not too high.

But still some do not pay.

The low fees pose their own challenges too and the result is big classes, shared books, school amenities that are not well maintained (I went into a toilet at a certain Government school in town the other day just to see what children are using and I am still in shock to this day) and a demoralised teaching staff – which we all know spells disaster.

That is why some parents to this day do not see why incentives should be scrapped because as far as they are concerned they should help Government where they can to bring about maximum results.

Be different this term by ensuring that you pave a clean and straight path to your child’s learning by paying fees early or engaging the school if there are problems.

Therein lies the difference!

May this term be a good one for the children!

btonhodzayi@gmail.com

Source : The Herald

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