Private colleges fall as unpaid rentals pile

Mirror Reporter

Harare – Hundreds of pupils throughout the country may fail to sit for the 2020 November/December exams after numerous private colleges which also serve as exam centres were given eviction notices by landlords.
The Mirror has letters written to private colleges by landlords giving them notices of eviction for failure to pay rent which in some cases has accumulated to as much as US$20 000. Some of the notices mature before students write their O and A levels exams in November this year.

This may leave hundreds of candidates without venues from which to prepare and write exams.
One director with three colleges in Harare who received eviction notices last week implored upon Government to immediately open private colleges in order to save not just schools from collapse but the businesses as well.
He said it took decades to build these institutions but they will go bust in six months under the Covid-19 lockdown conditions.

Rentals for the colleges have accumulated since April when Government closed down schools in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.There is also a serious humanitarian crisis in the colleges with 10 000 teachers and ancillary staff going for five months without salaries.

Other private college directors who spoke to The Mirror said the argument for reopening schools now far outweighs that of keeping them closed and the chorus is growing louder not only in Zimbabwe but in many countries throughout the World.

They said there were many pros for opening schools as opposed to keeping them shut.

The crisis with independent colleges has already been brought to the attention of Government by the president of the Association of Independent Colleges in Zimbabwe (AICZ), Professor Washington Mahiya.
He warned that many colleges were going to shut down unless Government allows them to reopen immediately. He said that colleges must be allowed to reopen because they have the capacity to comply with Covid-19 social distance and other lockdown requirements.

Private colleges are solely dependent on school fees for revenue.

The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Cain Mathema said in an interview with The Mirror that the issue of the threat of closures of colleges has not been brought to his attention and he added that the development is worrying.

He called on private college authorities to take up the matter with Provincial Education Directors (PEDs) who will in turn seek an audience with him.

“No one has brought the issue of the threat of closure of colleges to me. This is a serious matter which must immediately be brought to the attention of PEDs,” said Mathema.

Some colleges owe their landlords as much as US$20 000 in rentals and they have enrolments of over 200 pupils from Grade 1 up to Form 6. Evictions mean that these pupils will be out of school.
It takes a long time for a college to be re-registered after it has closed. This is because the process of assessing and approving new premises for use as learning facilities by education inspectors is tedious, said a private school director who declined to be named.

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