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Free Basic Education: Minister banks on supplementary budget, says our budget is too little

The onus is on Parliament to approve adequate funds

Free Basic Education: Minister banks on supplementary budget, says our budget is too little

By Daniel Chigundu

Primary and Secondary Education Minister Evelyn Ndlovu has told the National Assembly that her ministry was not allocated enough funds to fully implement the promised free basic education.

The government in the last quarter of 2022 promised that it was going to roll out free basic education to the citizens as is provided for by the Constitution.

Zimbabwe’s constitution which was adopted in 2013 says in Section 75(1)(a) ‘’every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has a right to a basic state-funded education, including adult basic education…’’

However, 10 years later free basic education is still a pipe dream, and all the budgets that have been passed since then, have done basically nothing to ensure citizens enjoy the right.

Citizens had their hopes raised last year when the government announced its intentions to finally fulfill the right in the 2023 financial year, but it was not so when schools opened in January.

However, answering a question from Kadoma Central legislator Muchineripi Chinyanganya, on what has been done to offer the state-funded basic education, Minister Ndlovu said the budget that was passed does not have enough legroom to fully implement the provision.

She said the provision can only be implemented in a staggered manner and took the opportunity to ask legislators to allocate adequate funds through the supplementary budget.

Under the Zimbabwean constitution, Section 305, it is only Parliament that can authorize the drawing of money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and hence they pass or approve the budgets.

‘’Mr. Speaker Sir, I would like to thank the Honourable Member (Honourable Chinyanganya) for asking that pertinent issue, the question of free education in Zimbabwe. At times I sit and wonder whether we can afford to pay full school fees. The truth of the matter is that we are willing, and we want to pay school fees for every child in this country.

‘’We have a policy document, we have a constitution, and we have an Act of Parliament in terms of the education sector that demands that we do exactly that.

‘’As the National Assembly, we approved the budget. We have sat down before the end of the year with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to analyse the budget to check on the amounts that were allocated to the Ministry in terms of funding the education sector in this country.

‘’After a deep analysis of the figures, it is quite clear that we can start the implementation of the program. However, it should be implemented in a staggered manner because we do not have enough resources to immediately implement that policy.

‘’So, this is the process that we are going through. We have the figures on the table and we are looking forward to you approving a supplementary budget if it is possible for you Honourable Members to make sure that our children access free education.

‘’We worked together with the Deputy Minister of Finance before the end of the year. We have the figures and we have got USD6.3 million and that USD6.3 million is not enough. It is not enough but we have to start the implementation because the Constitution says so and the Education Act says so. So, this is the answer ladies and gentlemen,’’ she said.

The onus is on Parliament to approve adequate funds

Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda sided with Minister Ndlovu, adding that the onus was on Parliament to ensure adequate funds are allocated to finance government programs.

‘’The Honourable Minister has thrown the ball back to us. During the budgetary debate, Vote by Vote, I think it is this House that should have queried whether the funds were enough to roll out but what you passed as a House was…

‘’Wait for that supplementary. Thank you. My ruling is very clear. The Honourable Minister will come back to this House and ask for more funds, USD6.3 million, and this august House will be obligated to pass that supplementary budget,’’ he said.

Finance Mthuli Ncube has in the past failed to adequately fund ministries and government departments citing a lack of funds. It remains to be seen if he will buckle to the pressure to provide the funds as required, as he has failed to meet the Abuja Declaration requirement on funding health.-

Free Basic Education: Minister banks on supplementary budget, says our budget is too little

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