Herald Reporters
It was business as usual in schools across the country where learners started classes for the first term of 2020.

Several schools recorded above 90 percent turnout of both pupils and teachers. Government and council schools recorded 100 percent enrolment as some parents withdrew their children from boarding schools because of high school fees and other demands, transferring to Government schools which are cheaper and affordable.

In Harare, some schools were turning children away for non-payment of fees.

At Dominican Convent High School in Harare, children who did not have proof of payment were earlier locked out of the premises with instructions to call their parents to pick them up.

Later, the students were instructed to assemble in the school hall while waiting for their parents to pick them up or to bring proof of full payment so that they could be allowed to attend classes.

Unconfirmed reports claimed the school was charging $16 500 per term while others put the figure at $27 000.

However, for those who had paid, they attended classes without any interruptions.

In most Government schools visited by this publication around Harare, children were attending classes and a few were turned away for failure to produce proof of payment.

Lessons resumed without incident at Warren Park High School where students confirmed that they attended lessons.

Teachers also reported for duty and queues of parents paying fees could be witnessed at the bursar’s office. The situation was the same at Rukudzo Primary School. Those who had not yet paid fees were allowed to attend lessons while their parents paid the fees.

Southerton Primary School also started classes as scheduled. Some parents, who spoke to this publication at the school said they were happy that their children were allowed to attend classes while they were making payments.

But some were left stranded after they failed to secure ECD A places.

Houghton Park Primary School turned away parents searching for ECD A and B places saying they had filled all the places available.

Hatfield Primary School advised parents that there were no places for ECD A, B and Grade One because they enrolled learners in June last year.

All schools in Bindura opened as scheduled and parents could be seen in the morning taking ECD learners to various primary schools in the town. Learners were attending classes at Chipadze, Chipindura and Bindura Primary Schools and no students were turned away for non-payment or late payment of fees.

It was a busy day in Masvingo as most parents thronged the schools to negotiate for payment plans for fees.

At Victoria Junior most parents were complaining about the boarding fees which they said were beyond their reach.

“While we understand that tuition is still affordable at about $200, the boarding fee is high. I think the responsible ministry should intervene,” said Mrs Taruvinga who has two sons in Grades One and Six at the school.

Victoria High was turning away pupils who had not paid fees. The situation was the same at Ndarama High School where pupils were not allowed into classes without proper uniform and proof of fees payment.

Masvingo Provincial Education Director Mr Zadius Chituga, however, said no school should turn away children over non-payment of fees.

“We do not expect any school to increase fees without the ministry’s knowledge. Those who are found doing this will be dealt with accordingly.

“We also don’t expect children to be sent away over the same, they go to school to learn. Fees payment is the duty of parents not pupils,” he said.

In Mutare, some parents scrambled to secure places for their children, while at most schools h teachers reported for duty.

“We came here to look for learning places for our children, but we are disappointed there are no vacancies especially for the ECDs. We call upon the responsible authorities to ensure that more schools are built in Chikanga so that children do not have to travel to schools as far as Hobhouse,” said a parent.

Manicaland provincial education director Mr Edward Shumba said everything was going on well.

“I have managed to visit a number of schools in Nyanga and children have attended classes at such schools as Britannia and Claremount. There were no reports of anyone being chased away. Quite a number of parents are making efforts to pay fees,” he said.

In Matabeleland South, most schools opened without major challenges and the majority of the teaching staff reported for work. Provincial Education Director Mr Lifias Masukume said they were still receiving reports from the district school inspectors.

“We have received reports from three districts so far. Everything is in order, we have not heard of any major challenges, everyone reported for work.

“In terms of enrolment patterns, we can only have a clear picture after analysing reports from all the seven districts,” said Mr Masukume.

Bulawayo acting Provincial Education Director Mrs Olicah Kaira said: “We have opened and just like any other term, not all pupils come to school on the opening day.

“Some pupils are still looking for places while some parents were either making last minute payment of fees or buying uniforms for their children hence some of them are yet to report for school.”

She said most teachers had reported for work.

In Matabeleland North, the acting PED Mr Jabulani Mpofu said while most teachers reported for duty, there were few learners in schools.

“From the statistics we have I can safely say teachers reported for duty. Only here and there some teachers had not reported for work, but the figure is nothing to worry about,” said Mr Mpofu.

Some parents withdrew their children from boarding schools preferring day Government schools.

Government schools in Harare were overwhelmed and had to turn away prospective learners.