School User Fee Sparks Controversy in Thyolo

The issue of user fees in public schools continues to stir disagreement as some parents for learners at Chimvu primary school in Thyolo Tuesday boycotted a meeting aimed at clarifying the matter.

One of the parents Samuel Butao, told Zodiak Online on Tuesday that government should actualize free education since the school management is still asking learners in lower classes to contribute over K1, 000 for examinations and K1, 600 for development at the same time.

"We are surprised with what is happening at our school, the committee and teachers are telling us a lot of things we cannot understand. Government said primary education is for free, but here they are telling us to be contributing a lot of money.

“For instance, a Standard 3 learner is being told to contribute K1, 000 for examinations. So as parents we are surprised and concerned that the school is being turned into a private institution," he said.

Another parent added: "We are equally concerned and surprised that at a time we are facing economic difficulties, we are being told to contribute a lot at the school, even for standard four learner. This is so though we cannot see what is being used for. Please help us so that we know what is happening."

John Grant is another parent who alleged that some five teachers and School Management Committee have abused K400, 000 of School Improvement Grant (SIG) and lending out K2.5 million collected for development to loan shackers.

"What is happening is that they told us to contribute K1, 600 for a development project and it amounted to K2. 5 million. But when we waited for them to tell us how much they collected, we heard they disagreed with other committee members. What followed, we heard they started lending out the money," he alleged.

Chimvu primary school headteacher Biton Mathado, has declined to comment on the matter.

But Chimvu Primary School Management Committee (SMC) Chairperson Dymon Chiputu, told Zodiak Online on Wednesday that those behind the allegations are frustrated committee members that were denied to borrow the funds for their personal businesses.

"I think this is all happening because of political influence. No teacher at Chimvu primary school is responsible of handling money. But all what I know, when we started collecting the money for the project which we had, some committee members were asking if at all they could be given some money to run their personal businesses. So as a committee Chairperson I refused," Chiputu said.

Meanwhile, Thyolo district education authorities are yet to comment on the matter.

A week ago, some parents for learners at Nanjodi Primary school in the district also expressed similar concerns.

Last year, Ministry of Education issued a circular warning school authority and denouncing hidden user fees contributions in public schools, except an approved development contribution which should not exceed K1, 000 per learner or student.

However, some minds have argued that it is impractical for the teachers to be writing examinations on the chalkboard considering that most schools are highly congested which would lower the education standards in the long run.

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