The privatisation issue as a blatant shift from missionary work to a mercenary agenda – involving a few church elements, seeking self aggrandisement
By Nhamo Muchagumisa
On 15 September 2021 – at around 0900 – throngs of people from Muchena Community flooded the main entrance into St. Augustine’s Mission in Penhalonga – in a demonstration against the proposed privatisation of the school. The demonstration was peaceful, punctuated by dancing, singing, chanting, and the waving of placards.
The people of Muchena Area view the privatisation issue as a blatant shift from missionary work to a mercenary agenda involving a few church elements, seeking self aggrandisement. They view the mission project as a community element that mutated into a national project as the establishment increased in popularity, hence they feel entitled to make their position clear about the imminent commercialisation of the school.
The crowd comprised people whose children are enrolled at Little St. Augustine Primary School and St. Augustine’s High School as well as congregants of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA).
The people view the stakeholder consultation meetings being held by the Responsible Authority, the Anglican Diocese of Manicaland as a ploy to falsify the people’s position, to create the impression that they have endorsed the privatisation agenda which they view as an open fraud.
Elsewhere, the privatisation agenda is facing the same resistance. It appears the communities surrounding St. Davids (Bonda) and St Faith (Fisco) also believe that greed is the real force behind the privatisation drive.
Videos of the consultation meetings have gone viral on social media.
In one such video a woman who introduces herself as Chihera asks Bishop Ruwona if his motive is really the improvement of teacher remuneration as he has repeatedly said.
Chihera argues that Government has not yet declared its lack of capacity to fulfill its mandate towards the remuneration of teachers. She goes on to say if the government is facing such a problem, it is Government that should come to the people, not the Anglican Diocese of Manicaland.
There are no signs that the Anglican Diocese of Manicaland will drop the privatisation agenda, despite all the noise about it being motivated by an infernal thirst for personal gains by a few individuals.
People who have been closely following developments in the Anglican Diocese of Manicaland cite the St. Catherine flop as an example of the rot that prevails in the high echelons of the missionary authority.
They argue that enough funds had been raised to build a state of the art private boarding school, but the funds ended up fattening the pockets of a few individuals at the centre of church administration.
Now that the St. Catherine project has proven to be a dead cow, the church administration wants to privatise the already established mission schools.
The move towards the commercialisation of St. Augustine’s Mission started with the establishment of a parallel project within the old St. Augustine’s School premises, known as Santa Private.
The students of Santa Private pay their school fees in US dollars, but attend the same classes with ordinary learners, taught by the same government remunerated teachers.
What then is the difference between Santa Private and ordinary Santa? The students of Santa Private have state of the art boarding facilities.
Their food is not served from the bowl from which the common students are fed. They have a separate dining hall and separate kitchen staff. The only levelling aspect is that their teachers are the same aggrieved men and women on the Government payroll.
Views continue to pour on WhatsApp platforms, including a group known as Muzungu, comprising former St.Augustine’s High Students from 1964 to 1990, students of the late Father Keble Prosser, affectionately known as Muzungu, the last priest from the Community of the Resurrection to Head St.Augustines High School.
Arguments in favour of privatisation cite modern dynamics in the education system, which call for improvement of infrastructure and the general approach towards school administration without being too elaborate.
Some members of St. Augustine’s Alumni argue that the Responsible Authority should have approached the Alumni with a list of the challenges they are facing for assistance without taking the privatisation line.
The St. Augustine’s Alumni has played a pivotal role in giving St.Augustine’s High School a facelift and incentivising teachers.
The Responsible Authority for any mission school is entitled to up to 20% of the fees paid into the school as per Government regulation.
The Anglican Diocese of Manicaland decided to levy form one students for 2021, a separate US500 and the form fives US900, paid directly to the Responsible Authority, before payment of Government approved fees, which in the eyes of the public is unconstitutional. It is this unfortunate move that makes people view the privatisation move as an outrage.
Diocesan Lawyer Ashley Mutungura had no kind words for local St.Faith parents who spoke against privatisation, saying that they do not know how school systems operate.
But it can be argued that they may not fully know how schools operate, but they know which model is good for their children, after all, parents have always acted as stakeholders, some of them participating as SDA/ SDC members.
Meanwhile, a day after the demonstrations at St.Augustine’s School, also known as Santa or Tsambe, all the village heads of Muchena Community were summoned to Penhalonga Police Post where they were fined ZW$2 000 each. Local villagers are furious about what they call the bullying of community leaders in this era of human rights.
They see no logic behind the move to fine the traditional leaders after a peaceful demonstration by their subjects. People are entitled to their opinions, but it appears as if nothing can spruce up the skinless face that the privatisation saga has projected amongst most stakeholders.
Good luck to the teachers whose welfare is top on the privatisation agenda.
Nhamo Muchagumisa is an English Language and Literature teacher, and he writes from Odzi. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on +263777460162. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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