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Holiday Lesson Fees Stir Controversy Among Zimbabwe Parents, Officials

Education Minister David Coltart said his ministry does not oblige teachers or students to participate in holiday tutoring, adding that such lessons should only be scheduled when parents and teachers agree

The Zimbabwean government has warned schools against scheduling mandatory holiday lessons it says are increasingly a way for teachers to bolster their incomes.

Deputy Education Minister Lazarus Dokora sounded a warning this week saying the government has realized that many schools are now making it mandatory for children to attend holiday lessons - in the process fleecing students' parents and guardians.

Authorities added that they are suspicious some teachers are holding back during regular class hours to ensure children will require lessons during holidays.

Day schools are charging an upwards of US$40 a child for such instruction, in addition to which parents are also expected to pay an administration fee of US$20.

Boarding schools are said to be charging more than US$100 for lessons. Parents say they pay up because they do not want their children to lag behind their classmates.

Dokora says schools should use allotted school periods for learning and not exhaust students using the so-called holiday lessons as an opportunity to derive income.

Education Minister David Coltart said the ministry does not obligate teachers to teach during holidays or mandate students to attend any extra lessons, adding that this should happen only when parents and teachers have reached an agreement.

Coltart told VOA Studio 7 reporter Tatenda Gumbo that teachers found to be compelling students or their parents to attend and pay for extra lessons will be disciplined.

Coltart said private institutions are free to decide if children must attend extra lessons.

Zimbabwe Teachers Association Chief Executive Sifiso Ndlovu said a high teacher-pupil ratio in schools plus economic hardships are obliging teachers to give holiday lessons.

Ndlovu told reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga that both parties benefit from the set-up - but adds teachers are at fault if they fail to use the time to help struggling students.

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