CIVIL Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR) says government should have given ample time for parents and learners to prepare for the imminent re-opening of schools to help cope with financial challenges.

Commenting on General Education Minister Dr Dennis Wanchinga’s directive to re-open schools next Monday, CSPR programmes coordinator Chimuka Nachibinga observed that the one-week period was insufficient for parents to brace for their children’s resumption of learning, as many parents lacked resources to pay school fees arising from the stressed economy.

“For me, my take, basically, on this issue is, I think government should have made an assessment in terms of resources as far as parents are concerned because the majority of the parents are crippled in terms of resources. I think opening of the schools, as it has been put, is the right way to go to ensure that the education sector is not affected in one way or the other. But I think maybe government should have given a month to parents so that they are able to prepare themselves in terms of taking their school children back to school,” Nachibinga advised.

“I feel that maybe the days that have been given about a week may not be enough in terms of looking for resources. Definitely, this will mean that most of these pupils will get back to school at a later date compared to what was announced by the Minister himself due to the fact that majority of the parents don’t have resources to take their children back to school, because of the many effects that have crippled our economy, and the consumers, who are citizens have been affected in one way.”

And Nachibinga urged schools to allow children to learn for a month before requesting parents to meet their financial obligations.

“So, the recommendation from us is that maybe the school managers be reluctant, they can make up a plan to allow parents for at least a month in which they can be bringing their children to school so that towards the end of the month, people will have resources coming from their salaries, those who are employed,” said Nachibinga.

Last Saturday, Dr Wanchinga urged learning institutions to engage parents and learners facing financial challenges on payment plans for school fees.

“I would also like to encourage our parents to adequately prepare their children by providing them with face masks. Parents are also encouraged to pay school fees in full in order to facilitate effective teaching and learning. However, in cases where parents may be experiencing financial challenges, I wish to urge our learning institutions to engage parents and learners to make payment plans and accept payments in instalments. In certain instances, especially in our rural schools where cash payments may be a challenge, payments in-kind should be considered so that no learners are sent away from schools,” said Dr Wanchinga.

“In order to sustain the availability of face masks, school authorities, in collaboration with the parents, should work together and ensure that face masks are provided to the learners all the time. I also wish to direct our learning institutions to effectively and efficiently make adequate arrangements to cover the material that was lost during the closure without compromising quality. Further guidance on the school calendar will be provided in due course.”