BY LORRAINE MUROMO
Several boarding schools across the country are cashing in on the sale of uniforms with some schools charging between US$400 and US$600 for a set.
Parents, especially of Form 1 students who spoke to The Standard accused schools of swindling them of their money by demanding mandatory purchase of “overpriced” uniforms at their institutions.
They said schools like Goromonzi High, Sandringham and Murewa Mission were demanding them to pay an arm and a leg for the uniforms.
“I sent my child for Form 1 at Goromonzi High School and the school demanded that we pay around US$600 for the uniforms only,” said one parent on conditions of anonymity.
“This money is separate from the tuition fees and other levies that we paid for. It’s for the uniforms only.”
Goromonzi High School headmaster Norman Gombera could not be reached for comment yesterday despite having called him on his mobile phone and sending messages on WhatsApp.
This publication established that Murewa High School was charging US$527 for uniforms while at Sandringham High School parents are forking out between US$400 and US$600.
However, teachers and headmasters’ organisations had different opinions with regards to the prices of uniforms in schools.
Zimbabwe National Union of School Heads secretary general Munyaradzi Majoni said the procurement and pricing of school uniforms was solely spearheaded by the School Development Committees (SDCs).
“As far as we are concerned as school heads we do not have control over the issue of uniforms,” Majoni said.
“As a matter of policy, we do not encourage any of our members to be involved in the procurement of uniforms.
“Heads of schools are not involved .The process is spearheaded by the SDCs.”
National Association of Secondary Heads president Arthur Maposa defended the pricing model of school uniforms as necessary to raise money needed for the running of the learning institutions.
“Schools have been hit so much by Covid-19 and schools like Goromonzi High were not spared,” Maphosa said.
“There was so much damage in schools that we are trying to sort out such as desks that promote physical distancing, replacement of torn mattresses and other things, which cannot be mentioned separately and, therefore, fit under uniforms.”
Maphosa said the prices were justified by the set of uniforms that the student gets that include uniforms for the summer and winter seasons as well as blazers, track suits and even sport attires.
“You can compare the price with some uniform retailers and other uniform manufacturing companies and you will see that schools are even cheaper as they have been trying to industrialise,” he said.
Petra Schools Trust chairman and former Education minister David Coltart said it was surprising that uniforms cost so much.
“Sadly, this can only be addressed through achieving the correct economies of scale and through government action in ensuring that the input costs for school uniforms are reduced, which can be done through tariff structures,” Coltart said.
“However, the overriding problem is that the economy is in crisis and most people have limited disposable income, which is a direct result of Zanu PF’s ruinous economic policies and endemic corruption.
“Until that is tackled most people will continue to battle even to provide school uniforms for their children.”
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure said the burden to fund basic education should ordinarily fall on the shoulders of the State.
“Parents are being forced to carry the State’s burden and the ministry’s position is that schools should not fleece parents through selling of uniforms,” Masaraure said.
“SDCs should stamp their authority and ensure that they defend the interests of the parents.
“Unfortunately, SDCs are usually captured and corrupted, so parents should make sure that they elect SDCs that are credible and independent.”
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou added: “This is true and is unfortunate and ill conceived, more so when schools have a monopoly over selling of such uniforms.
“Uniforms should be affordable and parents should be given an opportunity to source uniforms from any provider,” he said.
Educators Union of Zimbabwe president Tafadzwa Munodawafa said the prevailing situation was being caused by the gross incapacitation of teachers.
“They are trying to cash in in any way that they can and the only person they have much access to is the parent,” Munodawafa said.
“It is indeed unfair. All parents out there are struggling as well as teachers.”
Director of communications and advocacy in the Primary and Secondary Education ministry Taungana Ndoro said it was not mandatory for parents to buy uniforms from schools.
“Parents are free to choose where to buy uniforms as long as the colour codes are the same,” Ndoro said.