MASVINGO – Roman Catholic-run Bondolfi Teachers’ College has stopped 500 students from doing their attachments at various schools for allegedly refusing to pay a controversial teaching practice fee.
The move has raised eyebrows as Bondolfi is the only teachers’ training college to charge the $484 teaching practice fee, a few months after students paid their tuition fee for the term amounting to over $300.
Students told the Daily News they refused to pay the fee as it was illegal. They said they felt the institution wanted to dupe them of the paltry monthly salaries they are paid by government while on teaching practice.
“We have been served with letters announcing our suspension with immediate effect and we have been instructed to stop teaching practice. They are demanding over $400 from the paltry allowance we get from government. We are broke because we have just paid our school fees for the term,” said a student who declined to be named for fear that college authorities will victimise her.
The move will strain students and their parents as they will be forced to pay about $800 per term, some of the students said.
College principal Kumbirai Chitsama on March 12 signed the letters suspending the students.
The Daily News is in possession of one such correspondence sent to an affected student.
The students said what irks them most was the fact that they are forced to pay the teaching practice fee when the college receives their cadetship allowances from government.
“In actual fact we are being made to pay thrice as we have cadetship from government going straight to the college coffers, then we pay our normal tuition fees plus this mystical fee called teaching practice,”said another student.
Militant teachers’ representative body, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou expressed shock and said the fee was unheard of and illegal.
“This development is unfortunate and ill-conceived. The college is behaving like feudal lords bent on extracting every cent from poor students. Never in the history of education have we heard of a teaching practice fee paid by students,” said Zhou, whose group also represents trainee teachers.
Chitsama refused to comment.
“I am not allowed to comment to the press please call the church officials,” Chitsama said.
Efforts to get a comment for the Roman Catholic Masvingo diocese education secretary Father Mutsvangwa were fruitless. – Godfrey Mtimba