Left on their own

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By Black Edward

ON MY way to work on Friday morning I saw my neighbour, Mhofu, standing outside the gate and had this feeling that he had been waiting for me to come out.
We hadn’t seen each other since the relaxation of lockdown restrictions. He is always out, busy “hustling” — trying to make ends meet. We exchanged greetings, commented on the economic crisis and when our usual preliminaries of etiquette were over I jokingly warned him to brace for even more tougher times ahead.

As always, Mhofu doesn’t start talking about the main issue that he wants you to discuss so I had to bear with
him when he asked: “What do you think of this South African minister Mapisa-Nqakula and senior leaders of the African National Congress who visited us recently on their Air Force aircraft?”

And before I could reply, he posed yet another question: “Do you think it would’ve been an issue here if it were our
ministers visiting SA on our Air Force planes?”

We talked about this for a good 15 minutes and there was no doubt I was going to be late for work. As if reading my mind he said: “I’m sorry to delay you. I know you are in a hurry. Look, the reason I stopped you is just to hear about the latest concerning our children at boarding schools.”

Although I was relieved that this was what Mhofu wanted to talk about, tears came to my eyes and I couldn’t respond for a moment. Mhofu has two children at a boarding school in Masvingo, one doing ‘O’ level and the other upper six. You could tell he was distressed by the way he asked — show me a parent who w o u l d n ’ t be worried
after seeing the explicit and disgusting videos of unsupervised students, which have gone viral.

There were also reports suggesting that students, left on their own, were engaging in drug abuse. They said this lack
of supervision also exposed students to coronavirus as they were ignoring precautionary measures.

In some cases — the reports say — you will find only the headmaster, his deputy and a caretaker at some of the schools with hundreds of schoolchildren to supervise in the absence of teachers: that’s mission impossible.
It was more disturbing since there was no official communication from the government or schools on the way forward.

Talk of bungling! It didn’t make sense to keep children at schools when there was no learning taking place. At the same time it appeared school heads had no authorisation from the ministry to send children back to their homes.
This resulted in chaos and mischief reigning supreme in most schools.

“We paid tuition and exam fees for our c h i l d r e n , we’ve done our part as parents. Educ a t i o n i s t s
and the government should now play their part. We demand that the government and teachers reach an
agreement.

“It’s not easy and it’s painful to pay fees, food and transport costs for our children to be idle. “The students are also at high risk of being infected with Covid-19. Teachers say they’re demotivated and it’s worse this year,” said Mhofu, struggling to contain his emotions as words came out.

He added that parents couldn’t pay teachers directly to see their children through exams since the government
banned them from charging for extra lessons and those who disobeyed the order faced disciplinary action.

At some schools the payments are referred to as incentives. Again not all parents could afford these payments.
In fact the Zimbabwe AntiCorruption Commission has in the past investigated some schools. I’m not sure if calling them incentives changes anything now.

If you come to think about it, an incentive is just a stop gap measure. What’s needed is a solution — full stop. If a
teacher conducts lessons for an incentive it defeats the whole purpose of a strike.

Schools can offer holiday enrichment lessons if the teachers identify gaps, but only at no extra cost to the parents.
I pointed out to him that no government official or teacher will lose sleep just because

Mhofu’s children were missing learning opportunities. It was up to the parents to take action. There appears to be a negative view about politics among some parents. It shouldn’t be like that. It’s time parents stopped
looking at politics as a dirty game only fit for the immoral.

In fact they should assist in removing the politics of negativity and divisiveness, and usher in clean politics which makes things better.

When parents get involved with politics, they’ll be able to make a difference with the many aspects of their children’s lives and have a say in other issues that matter.

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