General Education Permanent Secretary Dr Jobbicks Kalumba says some teachers who failed to pursue their originally intended careers, such as nursing, have compromised the education standards in schools.

And Kalumba says the ministry wants to minimise the number of audit queries by reducing on the amounts of monies going to schools.

Meanwhile Kalumba has banned all schools from demanding things like floor polish and reams of plain papers from pupils.

Speaking when he featured on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview, Kalumba also said the ministry has given a provision for increment of user fees to schools that would provide justification for doing so.

“And I know you have been hearing about the Ministry of General Education appearing before the Parliamentary Committee, so sometimes we can reduce on those queries if we also reduce on the amount of money coming to those schools. Every year, the Office of the Auditor General audits the schools and the picture sometimes is not impressing. We can’t tolerate it, sanctions have been imposed on erring officers,” Kalumba said.

“But today, a good number of my cadres some of them, not all, they chose teaching as the last option, because they couldn’t go for nursing, they couldn’t go for any other profession but teaching became their last option. And these are the men and women who have compromised standards in our schools. And since they say ‘if you can’t win them [then] join them,’ as long as these men and women have joined the general education whose mandate is to transform the live of the children and to create an enabling environment in which learning should take place, these men and women must respond to the core of the ministry. We are on top of things and that is why we have been moving from one place to another helping the teachers to begin appreciating the value education in this profession,” Kalumba said.

He also said reducing school user fees was one way of making education accessible for both the rich and the poor.

“What we have done is this, every child who is in a remote area, they will be paying a K150 as part of their contribution towards education and the parents who cannot afford cash, we have allowed the idea or the principle of paying in kind. If they have a cow, goats, chickens, beans, millet, rice, let’s take this to the school. A cow cannot be manipulated easily. You can manipulate cash but not a cow, once it comes into a school, someone will say ‘we saw a cow coming into the school, where has it gone? We are talking about people in the village without cash [and] money is not just a coin and paper,” Kalumba said.

“There is nothing strange about it [and] others are going to pay in instalments. If the cost is K200 and [as a parent] you don’t have K200 at hand but you have a K50 or K100, you must be allowed to pay in instalment and then enter into an agreement with the school that on such a date I will be able to provide with the balance. We are doing all this in order to make education affordable. Education must not only be offered to the rich. Today many of the schools are only accessed by the children from the apamwambas (wealthy families).”

He said pupils at urban boarding schools would be required to pay K1, 200 for both feeding and stationary.

“And then in the urban areas like Lusaka, Libala for example , it is K200 user fee where you if you want to buy stationary, pens and the rest, it must be gotten from that K200 because if there are 2, 000 children, you must be able to procure. If it is at a boarding school, it is K1,000 per child. That is money for feeding, buying of rice, cooking oil, salt and the rest. I want to make this one clear. So if it is at Kasama boarding secondary school, the child will go with K1, 200 [and] the K1, 000 will go towards boarding, will go towards feeding while a K200 will go towards the procurement of stationary and the rest,” Kalumba added.

He said the ministry had given a provision for increment of fees to schools that will provide justification for doing so.

“Like if a school is extending on the infrastructure, we have given a provision that should there be need for an increment because of ABCD, that school, the PTA should now write to us through the Provincial Education Officer that we have this project and because of this project, we would like to raise the fee to this level there must be a justification [and] if there is a justification, we will agree. What we don’t want is exorbitant fees where our people won’t access education just because of the fees. Where there is need, we will accept, where there is no need [to increase the fees] we won’t accept,” he said.

Meanwhile Kalumba has banned all schools from demanding things like floor polish and reams of plain papers from pupils.

“We have provided in that circular that schools must not demand for cobra, schools must not demand for reams of paper, schools must not demand for holes. All what they want to buy will be bought from the user fees that have been provided. Should there be need to increase, we are going to revisit the prices. We have a standard grant that we give every year and we know that from the amount that we provide to the schools, in addition to what the schools are collecting from the children, the schools can manage in the affairs of the day to day discharge of responsibilities. We provide [grants] as government. It may not be regular but at least something goes towards improving the schools,” said Kalumba.