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NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HANSARD 19 MAY 2022 VOL 48 NO 48
PARLIAMENT OF ZIMBABWE
Thursday, 19th May, 2022
The National Assembly met at a Quarter-past Two O’clock p.m.
(THE HON. SPEAKER in the Chair)
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
HON. TOGAREPI: Mr. Speaker Sir, I move that Orders of the Day Nos. 1 to 17 on today’s Order Paper be stood over until Order of the Day No. 18 has been disposed of.
HON. TEKESHE: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON INFORMATION COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY, POSTAL AND COURIER SERVICES ON BENCHMARKING VISIT TO RWANDA
HON. MASANGO: Mr. Speaker Sir, I move the motion standing in my name that this House takes note of the report of the Portfolio Committee on Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services on the Benchmarking visit to Rwanda held from 10th to 15th October, 2021.
(v)HON. GANDAWA: I second.
HON. MASANGO: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir, I now present my report:
Five members of the Portfolio Committee on ICT Postal and Courier Services from the Parliament of Zimbabwe, accompanied by two members of staff, conducted a benchmarking visit to the Parliament of Rwanda from the 10th to the 15th of October, 2021. Of the seven members of the delegation, five were women. The visit was necessitated by the fact that Information Communication Technologies have become crucial in the existing social order of the day and especially during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Hence, the delegation sought to share experiences in the work of the ICT Committees with the intention of adopting best practices and ultimately enhancing Parliamentary oversight the over use of public resources.
COMPOSITION OF THE DELEGATION
The delegation to Rwanda comprised the following Members of Parliament and staff: Hon. Susan Madziva, Hon. Joyce Jaja, Hon. Jonah Nyikadzino Sewera, Hon. Precious Chinhamo- Masango, Hon. Ability Musavaya Gandawa (Leader of the Delegation), Ms. Bertha Bhobho (Secretary to the Delegation), Mrs. Betty Munowenyu (Researcher)
OBJECTIVES OF THE BENCHMARK VISIT
The main objective of the visit was to enhance Members of the Committee’s understanding of ICT laws in Rwanda with a view to adopting and recommending best practice in the crafting of our own laws and to expose Members of the Committee to diverse ways of enhancing the ICT sector in line with keeping up with the ever changing technologies. The other crucial objective was to accord the Members of the Committee an opportunity to discuss the legal impediments and enablers towards improving ICTs in the country during the COVID-19 era and the role that Parliament can play in enhancing the same.
In this regard, the Committee was able to have a courtesy meeting with the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies. The Committee also had an engagement with its counterparts from the Committee on Education, Culture and Youth in Rwanda. The Committee also had the privilege to meet with the Minister of ICT and Innovation, and parastatals such as the Rwanda Information Society (RISA); the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the Rwanda Post Office.
Information Communication Technology Policies and Strategic Plans in Rwanda
The delegation paid a courtesy call on the Clerk of Parliament and the Committee on Education, Culture and Youth in Rwanda. During these visits, the Committee learnt that the Government of Rwanda had initiated Policies and Strategic Plans which include the Rwanda Child Online Protection Policy in June 2019, an integrated ICT-led socio-economic development policy and plan for Rwanda 2001-2005, National Broadband Policy for Rwanda, National Cyber Security Policy in March 2015; Data Revolution Policy in April 2017; National Digital Talent Policy, June 2016 and National Urbanisation Policy, 2015.
The Committee learnt that there are strategic plans in place by Rwanda Government in order to promote the usage of ICTs and these include;
- The National E-Waste Management Policy, August 2018,
- The Local digital content promotion strategy & implementation plan (2018-2022);
- The ICT hub strategy 2024,
- The ICT sector strategic plan (2018-2024),
- The National cyber security strategic plan, Kigali, March 2015,
- The National ICT strategy and plan, 2015,
- An integrated ICT-led socio-economic development plan for Rwanda, 2006-2010, and
- The Smart City Rwanda Master plan and Smart Rwanda Master plan, 2020.
The delegation also learnt that the Republic of Rwanda had introduced different E- Services to promote the usage of ICT in the country and these include, the IREMBO e-government portal, the Kigali Land Construction one stop shop, the Kigali SMART bus project, the Kigali Pollution mapping, the Water and Electricity online paying systems, the NDI HANO (I am Here) SMS platform for the education sector, the Digital revenue collection, the SMART electricity meters, the Kigali Innovation city, the Rwanda Development Board, the Integrated Electronic Case Management System (IECMS), the Rwanda infrastructure geoportal, the E-health services and the One laptop per child programme.
Institutions related to ICT
The delegation was also told that in order to fully implement policies, strategies and laws related to ICT, the Government of Rwanda has established the following institutions: The Ministry of ICT
(MINICT); Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA), National Cyber Security Authority (NCSA), Rwanda Space Agency (RSA), National Identification Agency (NIDA), National Industrial Research and Development Agency (NIRDA),Rwanda Development Board (RDB),National Council for Science and Technology (NCST),Rwanda Atomic Energy Board (RAEB) and the Rwanda Post Office.
The use of ICT in improving the work of Parliament of Rwanda.
The delegation also learnt that in a bid to be e-compliant, the Parliament of Rwanda established the Digital Conference Network Multimedia in the Senate Chamber and the Digital Conference Network (DCN) for the Chamber of Deputies. The delegation was informed that the Digital Conference Network has a voting system Server room with Power backup facility and that all users have personal computers, wired and wireless LAN, with 60 Mbps connectivity and make use of the 4G modem. The delegates were also informed that citizens react to Parliament activates through the parliamentary website, and on radio through (Radio Rwanda Inteko), and on Social media through the parliament’s Facebook, twitter, and Instagram accounts.
It also emerged that since the beginning of the COVID -19 pandemic, the Parliament of Rwanda as well as all Institutions of Government of Rwanda adopted the remote working methods also known as “Work from Home”, in order to prevent the spread of COVID -19. It is in that line that every day the ICT department helps all Members of Parliament and staff to work from home and attend different meetings.
Challenges being Faced by the Parliament of Rwanda
The delegation learnt that the Parliament of Rwanda has been facing challenges relating to the User support and that there is need for more ICT training of Members of Parliament and Staff. It also emerged that the Network coverage is also not sufficient. Another challenge which was mentioned was on the issue of Cybersecurity threats hence the need for experts and training in security and strong firewalls.
Engagement with the Minister of Information Communication, Technology and Innovation.
The delegation had the privilege to engage with the Minister of ICT and Innovation and they were informed that the Government of Rwanda had a 7-year programme National Strategy (NST1) expected to run from 2017-2024 as ICT is a cross cutting enabler for Economic Development. It was also stated that in responding to the COVID -19 Pandemic, the Ministry of ICT and Innovation introduced the following;
- The Cruzr robots responsible for testing COVID-19,
- Predictive data modelling,
- Use of drones for a serial surveillance,
- COVID -19 self-screening,
- COVID -19 response website,
- Government teleworking support,
- The e- commerce and delivery platforms and
- The citizens travel permission system.
The Hon Minister Paula Ingabire pointed out that the Republic of Rwanda has recorded 62% internet penetration and 84%phone penetration. She further mentioned that there was an introduction of digital financial inclusion in line with Government broader vision to increase payment transactions through electronic means. Moreover, the Government of the Republic of Rwanda had established the National Cyber Crime Investigation and Digital forensic Centre, Cyber Departments in all security organs and the National Cyber Security Authority.
It also emerged that the Ministry of ICT and Innovation has also carried out smart initiatives such as Smart Farming in Agriculture and Smart Health through the Digital Community Based Primary Health IT systems. In addition, the Rwandan Government had partnered with a private company called Zipline which is responsible for delivery of medicine to hospitals using drones.
Rwanda Post Office
The delegation had the chance to tour the Rwanda Post Office and learnt that it had been administered under the colonial rule before 1992. It was further explained that with the country attaining its independence, the administration and supervision of the organization was given to the Ministry of ICT and Innovation and that the day to day management is entrusted to the Director General.
Moreover, the delegates learnt that about 90% of the Post Office revenues are generated by express mail services, postal parcels, sales of stamps and terminal busses. Furthermore, it was stated that the institution does not get any funding for its activities and that their strength is in trading in major cities, being a trusted government institution with long experience and skills. The delegation was informed that the institution is now embarking on developing ICT based products through collaboration with Rwanda IT players. However, the institution is facing challenges due to increased new technologies, competition, the COVID -19 global pandemic, and the Government paperless policy in the public services.
The Rwanda Information Society Authority
The Committee also visited the Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA) which has the mandate to implement ICT policies in the sector by leading ICT Projects. The delegation learnt that RISA’S core activities are infrastructure, connectivity, digitalization, cyber security, innovation and merging technologies. It was explained to the Committee that RISA’s mission was to digitalize the Rwandan society through the increased usage of ICT as a crosscutting enabler for the development of other sectors. In that regard, RISA has been put in place to be at the forefront of all ICT projects’ implementation and streamline research, infrastructures and innovation within the ICT sector. Furthermore, it champions the implementation of the Smart Rwanda Master Plan initiatives.
The Rwanda Development Board
The delegation also visited the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) which is a Government institution created in 2008 after the government of Rwanda dissolved eight entities to form one single entity for investments. The Board is in charge of investment promotion and it is private sector driven. Of note, Zimbabwe Trade Conference signed 5 memoranda of understanding with the Rwanda Development Board and one of them was on Information Technology. The RDB has different E services as follows,
- Business registration done online, free of charge in less than 6hours.
- Mortgage registration
- Tourism licensing portal
- Tourism Booking Platform
- Investments registration
- Online booking system
- Selected digital ambassadors
KEY OBSERVATIONS BY THE COMMITTEE
The Republic of Rwanda Health System is efficient and ensures the delivery of medicine on time. This is enabled by the use of smart E-Health Services in the Country with the use of drones. This is done through the Ministry of ICT and Innovation in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. In Zimbabwe we have Telemedicine, which is the use of telephones to inquire about health services.
- In Rwanda there is only one platform on Government processes where citizens can engage the government with regards to any issues that need to be attended to as opposed to different line Ministries portals
- All Rwanda Government institutions have adopted a paperless policy and all business has gone digital
- Information Communication Technology activities in Rwanda are linked to innovation
- Rwanda Post Office does not get any funding from the Government even if it operates under the Ministry of ICT and Innovation. It generates its own revenues.
- Rwanda Government has established a National Cyber Security Crime Centre responsible for monitoring cybercrime Cyber Security Centres have also been established in all the Government departments.
- The Rwanda Government has created an investor friendly environment through the Rwanda Development Board thus making it easy register one’s business.
- The Rwanda Post office has collaborated with private ICT players in an effort to go digital.
- That the Government of Zimbabwe partners with Private Companies in order to establish a drone company for E- Health Services. This can be done by the Ministry of Health and Child Care in conjunction with the Ministry of ICT Postal and Courier Services by 31st December, 2022.
- That the Ministry of ICT Postal and Courier Service establishes a one Government Portal where citizens participate in Government activities by 31 December, 2022.
- That the Ministry of ICT Postal and Courier Services formulates and follows up on a paperless policy in all Government institutions by 31 December, 2022.
- That the Ministry of ICT makes innovation key in its activities as this brings out the innovative part of using technology as an ongoing process.
- That ZIMPOST should not rely on Government Subsidies but should look for means to generate revenue on its own. Furthermore, it should collaborate with ICT players to improve its service provision through digital means by 31 December, 2022
- That the Ministry of ICT should establish a National Cyber Security Centre that is independent from POTRAZ. Furthermore, similar centres should be established in all Government departments in line with new law; the Data Protection Act by 31 December, 2022.
- That the Ministry of Industry and Commerce introduces registration of businesses online through the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency by 31 December, 2022.
Rwanda is well advanced in terms of Information Communication Technology and the innovative part makes everything possible. There is need for the Government of Zimbabwe to adopt the best practices by Rwanda Government as the Country is moving towards the attainment of the vision of becoming an upper middle income economy by 2030. One of the thrusts of the National Development Strategy 1 is to digitalize the economy. Digitalising the economy is important as ICTs have become crucial for economic development in any sector of the economy. Thank you Mr. Speaker – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear].
*HON. T. ZHOU: On a point of order Mr. Speaker. Hon Tarusenga lent Hon. Biti his tie, so he does not have a tie anymore.
THE HON. SPEAKER: Hon. Zhou, we should not be so frivolous, the important things is that he is in properly accepted attire – [AN HON. MEMBER: Without a tie] –Ooh he does not have a tie, Hon. Tarusenga, go and get your tie. Hon. Zhou, I apologise, I had not understood. Thank you.
(v)*HON. GANDAWA: Thank you Hon. Speaker. I want to add my voice on the motion moved by Hon. Masango. When you look at Rwanda, you see that all its cities have access to internet including the rural areas. What Rwanda has done is to develop access to internet to the extent that all growth points are well connected. The desire was to have everyone connected and promote exchange of information. Whilst we were in Rwanda, we learnt a paperless economy which we think is a good initiative for all businesses. For example, people who got their education in Rwanda and are looking for employment simply write to the Government indicating where they come from. All their information is accessible electronically.
Everything has been digitalised, all those looking for employment find it easy. We also learnt of the use of drones for transportation of medicines. These medicines are stored at a warehouse. Because medicines are stored in one place, it has reduced the costs of having storage place everywhere. Drones help with ease of transportation of medicines to places of need. For example, if there is an accident on the highway, a drone can actually transport the needed medicines at an accident scene in no time, thus saving peoples’ lives. We are very thankful of the lessons we learnt in Rwanda.
I am in full support of the recommendations that have been submitted in this House by the Committee. It is my desire that our Government will adopt the recommendations so that we also develop technologically as a country. Thank you very much for the opportunity Hon. Speaker Sir.
HON. NDUNA: Thank you Madam Speaker Ma’am. I just want to add a few words to this report on the benchmarking visit to Rwanda by the ICT Portfolio Committee that has been presented by Hon. Masango, seconded by Hon. Gandawa. I add my voice not because I was there but because there is something that can be derived from information, communication technology that is in sync with modern day trends that can transform economies; avoid, eliminate - completely eradicate and annihilate the scourge of illicit outflow and revenue leakages and also enhance the issue of aptitude in terms of development of the economy.
The issue of ICT is key, so this benchmarking visit that was undertaken by the Committee on ICT is very welcome. From the recommendations of the Committee, it does look and point to the fact that there is need to include ICT both in our education system which is the foundation of any nation’s development and also in our financial systems. ICT in schools is very good as this is the foundation and the root of any development of any nation. If you want to know that the leaves and fruits are derived from the roots, all you need to do in a tree is to remove the roots and you will find that the fruits and the leaves start wilting so that we avert the flaccidity and we also remove the issue of non-turgidity. We need to make sure that the root of any tree and any issue is upheld. We need to employ and make sure that our ICT systems are embedded in the foundation of our countries and nations, most importantly in Zimbabwe and in Africa which has a very young population in terms of age.
We owe it to posterity so that we are in sync with the times. I am alive to the issue that has been spoken to and about by Hon. Gandawa with regards to the transport management systems, that in order to avert and avoid mortality due to RTA, there is need to expeditiously deploy health care service systems after an RTA using drones, which is state of the art machinery – that is computerisation and the use of information, communication technology. By the way, the use of ICTs increases a lot of collaboration, coordination and networking. It removes corruption, collusion also removes nepotism.
The issue that I want to touch on is the issue of the electronic cover note and also computerisation of the tollgates. There was a windfall that was exhibited and that was gotten out of the computerisation of those systems that came from analogue to digital. A windfall of revenue generation was exhibited and gotten because of ICT. Our Constitution and indeed our Acts of Parliament speak to and about e-governance. We can now use the report as a pedestal and a platform to enhance our issues to do with e-governance. It completely annihilates and eradicates the issues of illicit outflows, revenue leakages and a lot of corruption and corrupt tendencies.
I now want to come home and domesticate this report that has been brought about on a benchmarking visit. His Excellency, the President Dr. E. D. Mnangagwa has put in information, communication systems in a lot of our Post Offices so that the people in those constituencies can access computer knowledge without any challenges. I call for those places and information centres to be transformed, not only for internet and information gathering but also to be learning centres for the people in those constituencies and administration areas so that we can use one stone to kill two birds. We now have access to information, communication and technology and also we can get what is called international, computer driving licence (ICDL). We can now make sure that even before our children leave school, they have got ICDL which is internationally acclaimed computer driving licence, so that it can hedge against lack of employment and then they can use that platform and a plethora of these gadgets dotted around the country to enhance their education capability. The issues of requiring Mathematics, English and Science at A level to access tertiary education will be a thing of the past if somebody can have their International Computer Driving Licence before they leave school.
This was my thrust for debating this report in that we have just received 80 computers in Chegutu and with more than 10 schools that we have, we can definitely get our children who are numbering more than 10 954 who can actually benefit from these information centres. Having said that, I have tasked the Acting Town Clerk, Mr. Chikuruwo of Chegutu West Constituency to write to the Minister of ICT who is looking at establishing an information communication centre in Chegutu so that we can develop our library which is archaic, moribund, rudimentary, antiquated and medieval - to say the least. It is still backward, an analogue using only the literature via hard copies so that we transform that library into a computerised learning centre.
Having said that, I think these are the words today that I have been commissioned to come and present, especially on this report of the Rwandan benchmarking visit by the people of Chegutu West Constituency: that is Patricia Nyamadzawo, Sara Chikukwa, Marjory Ruzha, Lameck Nyamarango and Mr. Zivhu of Ward 24 Maridadi District. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I want to thank the mover of the motion and also the seconder.
(v)*HON. RAIDZA: Thank you very much Madam Speaker. This is a very good report that we are getting from Rwanda and I would like to thank the recommendations they mentioned in this report. These are very good recommendations. They are informing us that Rwanda is advanced in technology but in Zimbabwe, we are seeing a lot of things that have happened since the inception of the Second Republic with regard to development of access to the internet.
When we look at the issue of business registration people in Rwanda are now able to do it in the comfort of their homes and it is very convenient. This is a very great lesson for us as a country because if you want our things to move timeously, this is something that we can encourage within our business industry to make it easy for people who want to register their companies and initiate business because the delay we experience in this country when it comes to company registration actually draws us back. It is against the desires of His Excellency, the President to have a middle class economy by 2030. Delays in the processing of papers when it comes to registration is a big hindrance.
In Rwanda, even in the rural areas, they are technologically advanced even the growth points. Looking at the period that we are living as human beings, technology is very important for our livelihoods. Today we see that only those in urban areas have access to the internet. We would like to encourage on that which the Government has already embarked on, together with the Ministry of ICT, may they increase capacitating people in rural areas even in Mberengwa East where we represent those people. People should be able to access internet despite their location so that they can get the assistance that they would be looking for.
It was a great initiative that took place, now our people can access passport registration and application online. It is now easy for people who want to acquire passports to do it online. There are a lot of positive things happening in this country. Looking at Vision 2030, it would be a good initiative that we advance in developing our country technologically. Digitisation will make our lives very easy as a country. As we speak, His Excellency the President, is actually busy with technological development in our country. It was our wish that we increase the speed when it comes to the development of technology so that people can be assisted. It is actually an avenue for us to fight corruption. It actually gets rid of corruption since it makes it easy for people to get rid of the physical being, apply and have access to services that they need instead of being asked to bribe someone so that they have access to services. Corruption has pulled us back as a country, it is very disruptive. We should fight corruption using technology and also develop our country using technology. Thank you for the opportunity you gave me. I thank you.
(v)*HON. HAMAUSWA: Thank you Madam Speaker Ma’am for this opportunity that you have given me. I would also like to thank the Committee on ICT for the report that they tabled in this House. It is that act they embarked on, that of visiting Rwanda that will assist us greatly in developing our own country. I would also want to thank those who moved the motion being supported by Hon. Gandawa.
I am happy to hear that a country, just like Zimbabwe, has developed this much. Rwanda is a country that has developed very well in terms of technology. Even their rural areas have developed very well. We look forward to seeing the same when people adopt this report and recommendations put to this House.
The issue of digitization and access to network, we look forward to seeing it in this country especially in rural areas. My constituency Warren Park, this is something that is known that there is the issue of network connectivity challenges – it is a well known problem. Our desire is to see our children engaging in e-learning. It is my desire that our Government allows for people to learn and reach the stage that Rwanda is at.
Madam Speaker, it is now expensive for Zimbabweans to access the internet because of the prohibitive costs, especially for school children who look up to access internet as a means to do their studies. The cost of data is now beyond the reach of many. May our Government assist its citizens because the cost of data is now very expensive. May we be assisted so that our school children have access and are able to conduct their studies through e-learning with ease?
The issue of e-governance, applying for a passport with one using their mobile phones is a very good initiative but it is not possible with the cost of data that is beyond the reach of many. If e-governance is a success, with the cost of data being very low, it becomes easy for citizens to access e-governance services. Looking at modern day technology, we now have online shopping, and others are able to buy their seed online including food. These initiatives are not here in Zimbabwe because the cost of data in Zimbabwe does not reach all corners of the country. Access to internet is very difficult, not everyone has access in all corners of this country. Even if you go past the tollgates that leave Harare, you will notice that there is a marked difference when it comes to internet access. You will also notice that what they learn in Rwanda cannot be applied to Zimbabwe because of the constraints you experience when it comes to internet access.
It is our desire that the Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services implements that which we learnt in Rwanda. May he share the ideas in Cabinet so that we can have technological development in this country? Things like e-health is something that we expect to see in this country. Following the recommendations from the Committee, we expect the House to implement the recommendations that we presented to the House. The main purpose of learning is that which you have learnt, we come back and implement.
Looking at the issue of Information Centres, this is a very good programme. This programme is not yet in every constituency in the country. I will give an example of Warren Park; an Information Centre is in Belvedere where the Post Office used to be located. When you look at this - [Technical challenges.] –
*THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: You are left with five minutes Hon. Member.
(v)*HON. HAMAUSWA: Thank you very much Madam Speaker. We need technological development in this country so that people from different corners have access to internet. People in different constituencies should be able to have access to internet. People should not embark on long journeys to access internet, they do not need to board buses and travel long distances in a bid to access internet. In most cases, people end up walking very long distances of up to eight kilometers just to access internet. If we adopt this report and recommendations, we will see Zimbabwe rising again. I thank you very much for the time you afforded me, and also for the report that was tabled by the Portfolio Committee on ICT. They represented the country very well in Rwanda – we now have something to talk about. I thank you.
(v)* HON. DUTIRO: (V)* HON. DUTIRO: Thank you Hon. Speaker for affording me this opportunity to add my voice to this topical issue on ICT. The biggest problem we have in Zimbabwe is the issue of network coverage. Our network providers in this country are showing that they are selfish, they are not bothered if people have access to the network or not, even if you look at this House where we are, we have a problem with network. If you are in the urban areas, it is a problem as well as the rural areas, the situation is the same. POTRAZ should do what is necessary and make sure everyone has access to internet. POTRAZ should be tough on network providers and make sure everyone has access to the network. They should not enjoy the monopoly that they are enjoying now. If you try to call NetOne using an Econet line, you face challenges. Secondly, people should have free internet access on all Government buildings. With these few words that I have contributed, I thank you.
(v)HON. MUSHORIWA: Thank you Madam Speaker for giving me this opportunity to add my voice in respect to the study visit by our Portfolio Committee. I support this report in that the country of Rwanda is a country that had genocide as early as 1984. The time that Rwanda had the genocide, a number of their countrymen perished in that struggle. One would have expected that it would take some decades for the country to move from that barbaric system that prevailed in 1994. Alas, Madam Speaker, Rwanda has demonstrated in the entire continent and indeed the whole world that best practices do not reside in the west or in the east.
An African Government committed to the advancement of its people can achieve a number of things and this report bears testimony to it. In 1994 when Rwanda was busy having their genocide, we in Zimbabwe by then had our network cell phones, Econet, NetOne were brilliant even our landlines, the then PTC was so good. What has happened is that over the years, whilst Rwanda has been moving forward; we have actually been moving backwards or at best, we have remained stagnant, hence we now have to copy best practices from a country like Rwanda. What has resulted in this phenomenon growth in ICT in Rwanda? The answer Madam Speaker is actually to do with Government policy which is consistent and I think President Mugabe led by example in terms of reassurance that whenever Government policy was pronounced, it became consistent and that anybody who crossed the path would actually be punished accordingly.
Secondly, the other issue which has become very important in Rwanda is the fight against corruption. One of the problems that we face in this country, whether all the issues about our network, the pricing of our data and everything that you look at in Zimbabwe, you realise that behind all this, lies the big animal which is called corruption. Sometimes you do not understand why Zimbabwe for instance would end up having higher tariffs than any other country in Southern Africa. You then realise that most of the problem lies from corruption and secondly failure by the Government especially the Ministry of ICT, POTRAZ to actually do the duties they are supposed to do or that they are mandated by the Act of Parliament to do. When those things happen Madam Speaker, it becomes problematic.
The other issue that I want to raise which really cuts my heart, you will be shocked that the blue print of the development of Rwanda not only in ICT but in other areas, those blue prints more often than not, are copied from Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe had done wonders in terms of coming up with position papers and in terms of development, it does not matter whether it is ICT, road or whichever infrastructure, everything we need in Zimbabwe is there. One of the things that we come to be told by the Rwandese is that if they want to do a project, all they simply do is to look and see the studies that had been done in Zimbabwe and then they implement. We suffer from a disease called non-implementation. We do fantastic paper work but we cannot implement and this is where we are lagging behind. This is where, as a country, we are failing to perform. I am just hoping that this report when adopted by this House, there is going to be a follow up with relevant ministries so that this report will not just become another pile of papers that we have been accumulating since 1980 which have never been implemented.
We do not want to have a situation where the next Parliament will have to send again another delegation to Rwanda to come up with the same findings that this Committee has found. We want a situation where once a report comes out, even when the Hon. Minister comes to make a presentation or to report to the House to answer to this report, we need to ensure that for continuation purposes, even Parliament should also come up with a track to simply say when our Committees visit these countries and they come up with these recommendations, these recommendations should be handed over even to the new Parliament when the new Members of Parliament come after the next election so that they know these things have been done so that there is progress.
More importantly, the people that are mandated to execute this, which is Ministry of ICT and POTRAZ, there is need for Parliament to continuously check that development is not stored but that we can continue to move from where we are.
Madam Speaker, I just want to end by saying this country called Zimbabwe has everything that we need. We have the manpower, the expertise - we have everything. All we lack is political will and our failure to just do the implementation. If you were to visit a conference or even a workshop to be hosted even by the Ministry of ICT, you will feel happy to be a Zimbabwean when you listen to the ideas that they have.
However, come two months, three years down the line, if you then try to check, you will realise that there is nothing on the ground and yet in Rwanda when they say we are moving to the east, we are covering 100km, they make sure that they try to cover that 100km.
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the Committee and thank you for this opportunity. I hope the resources that we have invested the Committee to do this task will not be in vain. I thank you.
HON. MASANGO: I move…
HON. MADZIMURE: On a point of order! You said any further debate and we stood up to debate but you have given Hon. Masango the floor to wind up since she is the mover of the motion.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: She is not winding up the motion but only adjourning the debate, you will debate next time.
HON. MASANGO: I move that the debate do now adjourn.
HON. T. MOYO: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
Debate to resume: Tuesday, 7th June, 2022.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
HON. T. MOYO: I move that Orders of the Day, Numbers 19 to 25 on today’s Order Paper be stood over until Order of the Day, Number 26 is disposed of.
HON. MADHUKU: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
FIRST REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ON THE INCLUSIVE EDUCATION POLICY (IEP) AND BETTER SCHOOLS PROGRAMME – ZIMBABWE (BSPZ)
HON. T. MOYO: I move the motion standing in my name that this House takes note of the First Report of the Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education on the Inclusive Education Policy (IEP) and Better Schools Programme–Zimbabwe (BSPZ).
HON. MADHUKU: I second.
HON. T. MOYO: Madam Speaker Maam. I am going to present the First Report of the Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education on Inclusive Education Policy, IEP and Better Schools Programme Zimbabwe (BSPZ) petitions.
The Committee received two petitions from Deaf Zimbabwe Trust and from Mr. Shonhiwa on Inclusive Education Policy and Better Schools Programme Zimbabwe respectively. Deaf Zimbabwe Trust raised concerns that the Inclusive Education Policy has existed in draft since 2019 despite the current education sector which is not inclusive by excluding equal benefit of learners with disabilities.
Thus, Deaf Zimbabwe Trust beseeches Parliament to exercise its legislative representative and oversight function and protect the rights of people with disabilities in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution and international legal instrument of which Zimbabwe is a party to and to ensure that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education finalise and adopt the IEP.
On the other hand, Mr. Shonhiwa was aggrieved by the notion that schools were being deprived of infrastructural development, furniture and learning materials by the Better Schools Programme Zimbabwe, demands for affiliation fees, hence beseeched Parliament to exercise its functions and protect the constitutionally guaranteed right to education and the rights of parents from abuses of public funds.
The Committee deliberated on the two petitions and resolved to conduct an inquiry on the two matters. Objectives of the inquiry were: - to gather public views on the two petitions and to offer policy recommendations for improvements.
I will move on to the methodologies. Oral evidence sessions with Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education on 4 November 2021, we also conducted public hearings at Nyika Growth Point in Masvingo, Mberengwa, Mapisa and Gokwe Centre from 20 to 26 February 2022.
Committee Findings – The BSPZ is one of the mainstream strategies that is meant to improve the standards of education, services provided at each school through mainly peer training, the sharing of best practices as well as PA supervision and monitoring of schools.
Another key aspect of this strategy is the conducting of action research and holding of competitions, exhibitions and fares to encourage schools to have a healthy competition and learners to learn from each other through such opportunities and experimental learning.
The levies paid towards the BSPZ are thus meant to ensure that sustainability of this shared strategy of sharing best practices among peer learners. Generally, funds that are collected for the BSPZ are ploughed to schools especially when they conduct their capacity building and research activities or set common mock examination task to gauge the strength of each school and help those lagging behind to increase their catch up efforts.
Within the Ministry, provinces and districts were challenged to come up with BSPZ centres in order to use them as research centres as well as offices and conference space for their periodic meetings. The province used different fund raising strategies and some have since come up with these centres but others were still unable to do so.
There is a management team made up of Ministry personnel and stakeholders within the community inclusive of business people, local leadership and this Committee is the one that ordinarily comes up with fundraising models inclusive of targeted levies in consultation with heads of schools.
Other findings include the mission of the Zimbabwean education system to facilitate the equitable provision of quality transformative 21st century practical, applied, inclusive and relevant infant junior, secondary and non-formal education.
The Zimbabwe Constitution of 2013 reaffirms this commitment as it enshrines the right to education for all. Section 75.1 states that every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has a right to basic education, State funded education and further education with the State through reasonable, legislative and other measures must make it progressively available and accessible.
Inclusion – by inclusion we are advocating that schools should seek out welcome nature, respect and educate all children regardless of their physical, gender, intellectual, social, economic emotional, linguistic or other characteristics. An inclusive school espouses the best interests of the learners, promoting social cohesion, a sense of belonging, active participation in learning, a complete school experience and positive interactions with peers and others in school community.
The Ministry deliberately created the department of Physiological Services, learner welfare and special needs to deal with issues of inclusivity in line with the Inclusive Education Policy. The department deals with all forms of disabilities that our learners have and actively advocates for the provision of any infrastructure which learners with disability would require. The Ministry was at the finalisation stage of the Inclusive Education Policy Draft document. This process had been delayed by COVID-19 lockdowns or closures which makes it impossible to hold the stakeholder validation meetings.
Madam Speaker, this process was completed on 30 September, 2021 and the Ministry was factoring in the inputs from its stakeholders. Among the stakeholders in the validation stage were representatives of Education Coalition of Zimbabwe, whose members include Deaf Zimbabwe Trust who have petitioned Parliament. The harmonisation of Inclusive Education Policy with the Disability Policy has been done and confirmed by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. The Ministry’s endorsement of the policy was targeted for end of November, 2021 which will be tabled to Cabinet.
Madam Speaker, there is a document on Inclusive Education Policy that was crafted and drafted by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education but it just exists as a draft, it has not been adopted neither has it been implemented. So Deaf Zimbabwe Trust thus demanded to petition Parliament so that the implementation of the Inclusive Education Policy will be expeditiously done. Public hearings on Better Schools Programmes, this is what we found from Nyika, Gokwe, Mapisa, Mberengwa, you name all those place that we visited.
In response to the petition, participants exhibited polarised views with some in support and others against. Those in support, particularly officials from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education acknowledged that although there was no legal framework supporting the collection of revenue for BSPZ, there were written procedures on how the money should be collected and utilised. I will explain for the benefit of the august House. There is no legal instrument that authorises the collection of funds under the auspices of BSPZ. Also, the Auditor-General Department does not have a say, is not legally empowered to audit the books of accounts, which means they handle millions of dollars but no external audit from the Auditor-General’s Office.
Representatives from the Ministry explained that the BSPZ were meant to improve management in schools by targeting the capacity development of schools, school heads and teachers of philosophical understanding that capacitating a teacher is the right means to build a better school. Participants in Masvingo informed the Committee that in their province, BSPZ demanded affiliation fee of USD2 and USD5 per child in respect of primary and secondary schools respectively. In contrast, those in Midlands, Matabeleland South, North and Gokwe were charged 50 cents per child in primary and a dollar in secondary schools. Ministry officials were demanding the affiliation fees based on schools’ enrollment without giving consideration to whether the fees have been paid or not.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education informed the Committee that BSPZ funds were instrumental in manning districts as little to non-financial support reach districts from the Head Office. BSPZ funds are mainly being used for capacity building, inspection of schools and provision of secretarial and administrative support such as printing and photocopying.
Furthermore, the funds are being used for capital expenditure such as procurement of vehicles and construction of offices and halls as was the case of BSPZ Nyika and Mberengwa respectively.
In Nyika, participants argued that the BSPZ should be banned, with the collection of revenue stopped as a matter of urgency because it was illegal. Participants noted that a significant amount of money that should be used to purchase furniture and learning materials at a local school was being diverted, thereby disadvantaging children.
Madam Speaker, the public unanimously agreed that the Inclusive Education Policy is a noble policy, however raised concerns that the policy remains a draft document. Participants at Nyika, including school heads confirmed that they were consulted in the formulation of the policy. The Committee was also informed that the draft including the Education Policy was finalised before the inception of pandemics such as COVID-19, hence might need to be updated or reviewed to include matters such as online learning, among others.
On budgetary and material support, it came out strongly that the Inclusive Education Policy should be accompanied by a clear budgetary support to ensure that the policy is fully supported and implemented. Inclusive Education Policy is a pipe dream. The policy was referred to as a “dream”, Utopian model, farfetched from the challenges being faced on the ground.
Participants in Nkayi and Gokwe argued that there were some schools in areas such as Binga, Nkayi, Gokwe that were substandard, without any meaningful infrastructure to talk about. Some learners were walking 5 – 15 km to school, hence question how the disabled learners would manage to cover such distances to access education.
Role of Communities:
The Committee was informed there was need to be clear on the role of communities in the IEP. Throughout the public hearings, participants cried out that the parents in most cases were not willing to bring children with disabilities to schools. This was attributed to lack of information, unwillingness by parents and lack of assistive devices, among others. Hence, contributors argued that there was need to carry out awareness programme on the IEP to various communities as soon as the policy is adopted.
Role of Teachers
The teacher remains an important actor in facilitating education services, hence the IEP expected to be clear on their roles and responsibilities. Participants in Mberengwa noted that in anticipation of the launch of IEP, there is need to start training or capacitation of teachers on how to implement the policy. In addition, Government should consider offering allowances and providing learning materials. The policy remains unadopted despite the assurance by the Deputy Minister of Education that policy would be adopted by the end of November, 2021.
Schools have inadequate resources including financial, material and human to implement IEP. There is a general lack of consensus or appreciation of what constitutes inclusive education policy as reflected during the public hearings. The existing enormous challenges in the education sector such as lack of infrastructure, teachers, and financial support among others, may limit the success of the IEP. The BSPZ programme is a noble idea. However, due to lack of a legal framework there is no uniformity in the collection and use of the funds.
The programme has too many loopholes due to lack of a legal framework, particularly on transparency and accountability in the use of funds. The funds are no longer used for the benefit of learners, but for allowances by Ministry officials. BSPZ is increasing the burden on parents who are already struggling to pay tuition levies and fees. In the 2023 budget, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education should consider provisions for the construction of model schools in each district, which should also serve as a good example on how an inclusive school should appear. The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology should encompass special training for teachers on how to handle learners with disability by December 2022.
The MoPSE should conduct an exercise to compile the statistics on learners with disabilities (either going to school or not) to ensure proper planning in future by December 2022. The MoPSE should ensure that every school has a trained teacher to handle learners with disabilities by December, 2022. The Ministry should conduct awareness programmes on the IEP to ensure that communities, schools and teachers are informed and capacitated by December, 2022. The MoPSE should craft a legal framework on the collection and use of BSPZ funds by December 2022. The MoPSE should enact a Statutory Instrument to ensure uniformity in the collection and utilisation of the affiliation fees throughout the country by June, 2022. The Auditor-General should audit the BSPZ funds so that a clear picture on how the funds are being used can be explained and create room for improvements.
In conclusion, the IEP remains a noble idea and delays in the adoption and implementation has exacerbated the existing inequalities in schools and worsens the situation of learners with disabilities. IEP should be accompanied by a budgetary support to ensure its success. Lack of a legal framework to regulate the BSPZ has created abnormalities in the collection and use of the funds. Therefore, the Ministry should craft polices that regulate the collection and utilisation of BSPZ funds. I thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.
HON. MADHUKU: Thank you very much Madam Speaker for giving me this time to second a very important motion by Hon. Moyo on Better Schools Programme Zimbabwe as well as the inclusive education policy. BSPZ is a very noble idea which was studied by the Royal Netherlands Government to improve the quality of education in Zimbabwe and it was handed over so that the Government would sustain this programme and keep on improving the quality of teaching and learning in our schools.
As we noticed when we moved around, this programme has now become a cash cow for the Ministry doing very little to improve the quality of learning and teaching in our schools. Different provinces and schools are doing their own things and therefore lacking uniformity as highlighted in the report that some provinces or districts are paying USD2 per child in primary schools and USD5 in secondary schools, which is a lot of money and looking at the population or enrollment of learners in Zimbabwe as given by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in 2020, which gave the total number of learners in the country to 6 553 690. This a very large number which shows that districts or provinces are collecting millions of USD per term because the subscriptions are paid per term.
With this money, different districts and provinces have built very beautiful structures – what they call resource centres and we have also noticed that some districts have bought lodges which they are running in their districts and collecting a lot of money because they are renting out or hiring those lodges. They have also bought very expensive 4 by 4 trucks, buses and so on. So there is a challenge in the absence of a legal instrument as alluded to by the Chairperson of the Committee. It remains a mystery whose property this belongs to. We are not sure with the acquisition of all these properties whether it is the property of the Ministry or parents, it is not very clear. So I am just trying to buttress the very important point that the legal instrument is needed. This money is also used to pay for as alluded to, travel and subsistence, education officers, fuels and so on. The parents are saying this money is depriving learners - the money which could have been used to purchase infrastructure and other learning and teaching materials, hence the outcry of this situation here. In the absence of the legal framework, these subscriptions are open to abuse and a lot of other nefarious uses. This is in total breach of Section 298 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe on Principles of Public Financial Management which calls for transparency, accountability, prudence and economical spending of money.
Worse still, when the Ministry makes the annual budget, this money is never talked about in the retention funds which they have. Considering that they are collecting millions of USD every year, we would have thought that the Ministry would actually account to say that they are collecting this money and spending it in this manner. We are calling for a legal instrument to ensure that there is transparency in the whole process.
Let me move on to the Inclusive Education Policy. The key principles of inclusion in education relate to the principle of togetherness and also equality and equal participation in education and acceptance of all learners as being the same. This is a total rejection of special education in schools where we are aware that there are special schools in our education system. The issue of inclusive education rejects the concept of special schools so that all learners come to the same schools, same classrooms and have similar experiences because there is no country or institutions which are specifically reserved for those with disabilities. We live together and we have the same political, economic and social experiences. For that reason, the learners need to have similar experiences in the same classrooms in the same schools.
This calls for a change of the status quo. We have been having an education system which was particularised and with those special schools, we are calling for a paradigm shift and a change of status quo in the education system.
As has been alluded to, Section 22 of our Constitution states that all institutions must assist persons with disabilities to achieve their full or maximum potential. Section 22 (4) talks of the provision of appropriate buildings and amenities for such learners. It is very important to note that statistics from the United Nations say that 15% of the global population is people with disabilities. The percentage is even higher in developing countries. In Zimbabwe, because of lack of adequate information, we actually have a very large number of such learners who need assistance.
Like everyone else, people with disabilities have dreams and desires to fulfill but are vulnerable to violence, abuse, neglect, stigmatisation, marginalisation, discrimination, exclusion from access and even mainstreaming – exclusion and discrimination from their health requirements, legal support and even other social activities. The issues of equality and equity are critical, especially in view of the fact that we have had this COVID pandemic which has impacted negatively on such learners.
The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Dr. E. D. Mnangagwa says that no one should be left behind and no one must be left behind in all developmental projects, in everything good which the Government does. By reason of this outcry, it is very important that all learners with disabilities be taken on board as a matter of urgency lest they be left behind. Leaving them behind is very costly for the nation because we have to go an extra mile in making provisions of people who had been disadvantaged in many ways.
In June 2021, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Dr. E. D. Mnangagwa launched the National Disability Policy in Harare. He said all Government departments and institutions should mainstream disability in all their programmes. He urged citizens to stop treating people with disabilities as charitable cases but as equals capable of productively contributing to the development of Zimbabwe. We are appealing to the Ministry of Education to ensure that they take this as a very urgent issue so that we take them on board and participate in the development of the country.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education should ensure that every school has appropriate infrastructure and trained teachers to mann the learning and teaching aspect and availing of resources to cater for this very special and important group of learners. As has been alluded to, a disability inclusive budget is very critical. Government has to ensure that there is disability inclusive so that it caters for all these demands.
Madam Speaker Maam, allow me to conclude my contribution by quoting what the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Dr. E. D. Mnangagwa said on this launch last year on the Disability Act. He said, “the reality is that no one plans to be born with a disability or desire to acquire a disability, hence everyone has an equal chance of becoming a person with some kind of disability at any time”. Guided by the values of ubuntu or unhu and the legislative obligations, both State and non-State actors have a collective obligation to do all which is possible for the fulfillment of the aspirations of this sector”. Having said this, it is our sincere hope that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education will expedite finalising this Act of Inclusive Education Policy for the benefit, not only of those with disabilities, but for the benefit of every citizen of this country. I thank you Madam Speaker Ma’am.
(v)*HON. MUSHORIWA: Thank you Madam Speaker for giving me the opportunity to debate to this report that has been tabled by Hon. T. Moyo, seconded by Hon. Madhuku.
Madam Speaker, for the first time, I want to state that I personally feel that the Committee on Primary and Secondary Education did not do a proper job in terms of these two important petitions. First and foremost, Madam Speaker, whilst I can understand that the Committee, when it received the two petitions, decided to conduct Public Hearings. I think it was wrong of the Committee to then come up with one report including the way they put the Better Schools Programme in Zimbabwe (BSPZ), and the Inclusive Education Policy in one report. What they should have done was to come up with a BSPZ report and a separate report on the Inclusive Education Policy. The manner that they have done it is similar to scratching on the surface.
First and foremost, I will start with the BSPZ – I can forgive Hon. Moyo because of his exposure in higher education but Hon. Madhuku will know because he hails from the Primary and Secondary Education system. He also comes from the province of Masvingo, and Masvingo Province has done well in terms of BSPZ compared to other provinces in this country.
Madam Speaker, I speak about BSPZ with passion because I got the know-how having been a BSPZ Treasurer of one district at some point. The truth of the matter is that the findings by the Committee Madam Speaker, are wrong. The Committee said that the funds that are being paid to BSPZ are public funds. They are not public funds because public funds are defined by the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) – if you check the funds that go to BSPZ do not suit within the corners of the PFMA. Where does the money from the BSPZ come from? The money from BSPZ is collected from monies that are paid by parents for their children through the school development levies. This is where a percentage is taken to go to the District Office, and a further percentage goes to the Provincial Office. I understand another percentage also goes to the National Office. What has happened is that BSPZ is being funded by parents who are being forced to do so, and rightly, the Committee stated that there is no legal framework to collect that money.
What has happened over the years Madam Speaker, and which is very problematic, if you go to Masvingo and I happened to visit Masvingo, at another time Chiredzi, Gutu, Mwenezi, Masvingo urban, and other districts in Masvingo, you will find that they have huge, good buildings and district offices in all those areas. They were built by BSPZ funds – in fact, those buildings were built by money received from parents and not by Government funds or taxes but those were paid for by parents. The Committee is right to say that nobody knows who owns those buildings.
The current set up is that the Government believes that they actually own those buildings because what the Government cited, clandestinely it decided not to fund education. If you go to the district offices, the District Schools Inspectors, their various inspectors and all officers who work under the district offices get salaries from the Government – just like teachers at Dzivarasekwa High School earn their salaries from Government. When it comes to all expenditures, just like at Dzivarasekwa High School, all expenditures at the school come from monies that are paid by parents. The good thing at Dzivarasekwa High School is that there is a School Development Committee that is elected by the parents to superintend over those funds.
What then happens with BSPZ Madam Speaker is that a percentage, which unfortunately [Technical challenge.] – decide on its own depending on that particular district or even the Provincial Education Director in that particular province decides what they want to do and the mission for that particular province. Look at it this way Madam Speaker, the monies that are going to BSPZ at district and provincial levels, if Government wanted accountability, they should have come up with a Statutory Instrument just like they did with the Statutory Instrument that governs School Development Committees (SDCs). In fact, the honest truth is that the Statutory Instrument that governs the SDCs in schools is also outdated, and if I was to quote Hon. Nduna, I would say it is moribund and archaic.
The Government should have come up with a Statutory Instrument that legalises the collection of a percentage of school levies from the levies that are being collected by schools from parents. The Statutory Instrument should then have stated how people or the committee that runs BSPZ ought to do. That committee, in my view, should be at the district, provincial and national levels. The rules are simple, that there is no legislation without representation but what the Government has done, especially the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, whilst they appear before the House complaining about the budget, the Committee was spot-on to say that they have an angle that they are poaching, and using.
The danger Madam Speaker, is not only about them poaching these funds. The danger is what was the purpose of the BSPZ when it started? It was meant to ensure that there is an improvement in terms of the education and making sure that all our various heads in a particular district and the various teaching departments – there is interaction and a mechanism to ensure that education standards are kept high. However, what has happened over the years, that noble goal has been set aside, that money now goes to fund the education offices, the district and provincial offices and to a certain extent, the national offices. That is wrong, I know, given my experience in terms of having worked some years clerking the BSPZ funds.
I think what is important is that we need a Statutory Instrument but the challenge that we have with this report is that – this is the reason why I said from the start, the Committee was supposed to – [Technical challenge] – report on BSPZ and a report on the Inclusive Education Policy. When they did the public hearings, I did not hear much about Harare or Bulawayo and also the various SDC Committees because the general thinking from the main school development committees and school development associations across the country, they feel that the DSIs and the PEDs have become too powerful on monies that they do not own or have not been appropriated by Parliament to them. This money belongs to parents and those buildings that have been built by BSPZ in any district, truly speaking such district offices belong to the parents. However, I know the Government now believes that it is their assets. My only worry with this report is that this report contains two important issues, that of inclusive education policy, which should have been separate and on a separate report and BSPZ, separate report. The idea being that those people who want to scrutinise this report and do a follow up later on should be in a position to narrow it.
Lastly my argument against – [Technical challenge] –public funds; I think Hon. Moyo will do that if he read the definition of public funds under the Public Finance Management Act, even the Bill that we have under the House at the moment. It excludes that money – the money that is paid to schools through SDC levies is not defined as public funds. This is the reason why the School Development Accounts are audited by private auditors rather than Government Auditors or the Auditor-General. It is not going to be possible for the Auditor-General to audit BSPZ funds but the call by the Committee to say that there is need for a legal framework is correct but it is the methodology and manner of that legal instrument which is crucial. I want to tell you that without the parents, the education system in this country could have collapsed long ago. The parents have been faithful in terms of running the schools when the Government encountered problems.
Through BSPZ, the parents have been forced to fund district offices and provincial offices. In reality, the money that the Ministry of Education is getting is a lot of money but they are doing it in a clandestine manner. To that end, in spite of my reservations about the methodology that the Committee used, I hope and believe that the Committee will make sure that they push the Ministry of Education to make sure that they move with speed. The last time the Education Amendment Act was brought to this House, when Hon. Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga was still the Chairperson, there was a commitment by the then Minister of Education to simply say that the reason why they were not amending or coming up with a new Statutory Instrument was because they were waiting for the amendment to pass through. However, that amendment has passed but to date, there is nothing that the Ministry of Education has done. I urge Hon. Moyo and the Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education to push this Ministry because they are sitting on a gold mine and the chances of DSIs and other officers within the various districts including the provincial education directors getting rich from these funds are high, just as we know that there are certain heads and SDC members who are becoming rich – [Technical challenge] – come up with a legal framework to guide this money because there is a pool of money. I thank you Madam Speaker.
*HON. MUCHENJE: Thank you Hon. Speaker for giving me this opportunity to also contribute to the debate on the Report of the Committee on Primary and Secondary Education. I would like to comment on the BSPZ issue. I am one of the members of that Committee and when we went around for the tour, we saw a lot as alluded to by the Hon. Chairperson and the seconder.
From the time BSPZ was introduced in 1987 to date, with the intention of bringing about better schools, I do not think there is any improvement on schools due to that. If you look at most schools, the standards have gone down, the parents are the ones carrying the heavy load on the schools. After paying for BSPZ, they pay school levies and school fees to the Ministry. In the rural areas, they work hard in the physical construction of the schools. As far as I am concerned, that is a heavy burden to the parents who sent their children to school.
The appropriate thing should be that, such funds should help schools to assist teachers and to procure better furniture and other facilities that may be needed. That money is used in district or provincial offices like where we visited in Masvingo, in one instance, there was a lodge that was built. I do not know how that is relevant to the school. So, I do not think the school will have run out of better projects for it to use funds to construct lodges. It is because the BSPZ fund is not properly and legally constituted so that it can be audited properly. This is because where your money is, that is where your heart is because when parents take their children to school and pay fees, they expect their children to get better learning conditions but when that is not done, it means the Ministry should ensure that BSPZ should have a Statutory Instrument to improve schools. If that does not happen, I suggest that, it stops until we have that Statutory Instrument because money is difficult to get these days. In Masvingo, primary school children pay two dollars and secondary school children pay five dollars. If you have three children at primary school and three at secondary school then schools fees, levies that are to be paid at the school; you will find that this is causing a lot of school drop-outs, especially the girl child. Sometimes the boys may go for gold panning and other activities during holidays and they assist their parents in paying fees. Girls cannot do that, they are now allowed to go and work elsewhere, especially when they are still at school.
That fund is being abused and schools are not getting the necessary benefits. In Mberengwa, we were told that that fund is being abused because there is no provision for the tracing of those funds. I would like to say when the Ministry is using that money, under what circumstances are they using it because it is not budgeted for and it is not in the fiscus but it is a lot of money that could have contributed to the development of the schools? It is a very good programme but it was abused and it goes back to the parents who are oppressed because of that. So if there is no Statutory Instrument to regulate, I suggest that it is stopped.
On people living with disabilities, no one chooses to live with a disability. Sometimes the child may have been involved in an accident; . still, they have a right to education - it is their right in the Constitution. The problem is, schools do not have infrastructure and trained teachers to cater for these children. There are no facilities for them, be it for someone who may not be able to stand up, they may not have facilities. The same for the visual impaired as well those with hearing impediments. It becomes very difficult for them to go to school, especially those in rural areas who sometimes cross rivers on their way to school and it becomes very difficult for them to go to school. Some of these children are very bright and have talents that will never be discovered and when discovered it will assist in future.
The teachers at those schools are not trained to teach disabled children, they are supposed to be trained. At each and every school we are supposed to have teachers responsible for teaching disabled children. They must not be isolated. At the moment, it may be difficult for any teacher to teach the visually impaired or those with hearing impediments. At every school, if we could get four or three teachers to assist those living with disabilities and if they are not there, it means that child will simply attend lessons without any benefits.
Let me look at the BSPZ Fund; such funds should be used for construction of facilities at any school to cater for the disabled person. That fund could be used for refurbishment or putting new structures on ablution facilities that may be friendly to children living with disabilities.
The last thing that I would like to touch on is children who are able-bodied; they should be taught to accept and learn with disabled children. They should not discriminate; some disabled children will end up being afraid of going to school because they are laughed at or mocked at. That child might refuse to go to school because of what will be happening there. They must accept them and accommodate them so that they feel comfortable and when the day passes they will go and tell their parents that the school and been a good place for them. When they are mocked it will affect their performance at school. I thank you Hon. Speaker.
HON. JOSIAH SITHOLE: Thank you Madam Speaker Maam. I would also want to add my voice to this report which has been presented by the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education, Hon. Moyo and seconded by Hon. Madhuku. When BSPZ was established in 1986 through donor funding, the objective was to create a centre or centres in our districts for the improvement of teaching and learning through in-service training. So the concept was to ensure that the teachers would come to the centre where they could be in-serviced. If they did not know certain principles or they had problems with certain topics at secondary school, teachers would come to a centre then resource persons would be found and given some hints as to how they could go about it.
It was most unfortunate that when the donor withdrew, it became apparent that schools, and districts started to think their own ways without actually sticking to the dictates of what was meant to be Better Schools Programme. You will also find that schools and districts started to have disparities in the ways they were handling funds related to Better Schools programmes. When we passed through Nyika in Bikita, we saw that they had established very beautiful and first class offices. You could actually be impressed all the way from the entrance - seeing wonderful work that has been done. If we had the opportunity to go to Masvingo, you would see upstairs in Masvingo District, implying that those districts although they were not using the funds in terms of some statutory instrument, they were doing something as opposed to what we saw in other districts. When we went to Mberengwa, we were only shown a hole which they had put up and which they still felt they were going to remove from the site because it was not on its required stand.
In other places again, you would find they were battling with the stands they had been given but nothing was there on the ground. I would like to say when Chiredzi raised this motion, it is because their BSPZ structure is just standing where it was five or six years ago and nothing is happening. So, perhaps they also felt there was no need for providing more funding because they were not seeing any progress.
Madam Speaker Ma’am, although we saw structures in districts, some provinces are now demanding that we have provincial structures. So, the thing is continuing to move and it is getting this funding from the parents when in fact there is no benefit that is going to the children on the ground. The BSPZ activities have created disharmony in a number of cases between the parents, the communities and the Ministry. In some cases, the Ministry would simply come to a school and demand the money for the whole term right on the opening day. When kids would have paid school fees they would come and collect money and say how many children are here and demand money for 500 kids when the others have not yet paid.
Therefore, in some cases, you would end up with a school that would have been robbed of the revenue that it would have collected which is quite unfair.
Some of the schools were visited by their respective district offices but in most cases, we were told that the district offices or office staff were invisible in the communities to supervise schools and yet here we usually receive information from the Ministry that they do not visit schools because they have no funds yet there is BSPZ which we feel if the cars are utilised properly, then we are going to see schools improving even in terms of pass rate because they would be supervised by the district offices.
Madam Speaker Ma’am, it is also sad to note that if Better Schools Programme funds were supposed to be meant for the children to benefit, you realise where lodges were constructed, I do not see the relationship between the learning of a child and a lodge. That only meant people were now going too far away from the dictates of Better Schools Programme. In some cases again, we discovered in Mberengwa for example, that they were talking of charging a dollar per child from the beginning of the Better Schools Programme. They did not change anything; it remained a $1 per child from 1996. So, you would begin to ask whether this is a relevant fund or not because we know economic issues change from time to time but why still sticking to a $1 per child throughout? You would think they are not bettering the schools but instead they are just sitting there to show people there is Better Schools taking place.
Madam Speaker, the Better Schools Programme used the concept of clusters and they would take a number of schools to come together and learn. However, if you see how the clusters were going; normally you have one secondary for four or five primary schools. So, you would see a secondary school clustering with five primary schools and you would wonder what the secondary school would benefit from there. The situation would continue like that and you would see that when the clusters are held, only primary schools would benefit because they would be more in number and hence they would be exchanging their information in a more productive way.
I concur with the idea that we need to see a system that is water-tight in terms of controlling Better Schools Programme funds. The situation as it stands now is such that those who are in the upper offices say at head office, when they want to come down to a province or a district, they simply say prepare us money there because it is part of their money. So, the funding is now going all the way up to head office but the child will be suffering and this is what would force, for example districts to go down to schools and say we want the money because they would want to make sure they are going to provide accommodation, food and so on for the officials that would be coming.
I want to go to the issue of Inclusive Education Policy; as we stand today, we do not even know what is in the Inclusive Education Policy because it is not there. We only know that we have got issues that must be addressed but if we do not know the contents of the Education Policy, it becomes a very difficult issue for us to debate here in Parliament and also for us to proffer what we want to be done. So, it is of great need that the Education Policy be brought before us because definitely you might find it has got other loopholes or other problems that might be amended in order for us to see our persons with disabilities benefiting.
We have got a lot that has to be done for them; it has been alluded to that when they have to go to school, there are certain things that must be brought forward before them. From my understanding at the moment, if you get into schools, you are going to see what they call resource unit and special classes and they take that one as a very great move towards accommodating persons with disabilities. However, we definitely would ask questions to say, how many are getting there where there is a resource unit and special class? This means we still have distances that have to be navigated by these persons with disabilities. We have got the devices that are not there in place and we have to make sure such things are provided.
I want to congratulate this Parliament for coming up with a Disability Caucus. I feel this caucus is going to talk more into issues of disability and pressurise the powers that be to ensure what was needed in the schools and hence in the Inclusive Education Policy is going to be something that can work to assist our persons with disabilities.
HON. T MOYO: I move that the debate do now adjourn.
HON. TEKESHE: I second.
Motion put and agreed to.
Debate to resume: Tuesday, 7th June, 2022.
On the motion of HON. T. MOYO, seconded by HON. TEKESHE, the House adjourned at Seven Minutes to Five, o’clock p.m. until Tuesday, 7th June, 2022.