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    Monday, 11 March 2019

    The headaches of running Vic High- head speaks out

    Vic High head John Muzamani.

    •    Water, workers’ wages chew up 40% of school fees
    •    Large multinational companies withdrew support
    •    Public Works stopped maintenance work


    The head at Victoria High has finally spoken on allegations of maladministration levelled against him.
    John Muzamani spoke of the mammoth task of running a huge institution like Victoria High with a tiny budget such as his.  He described the fees paid by the pupils as a drop in the ocean compared to the massive infrastructure at the school that needs maintenance, the obligation to feed pupils, pay workers and settle water and power bills
    Victoria High School has the biggest infrastructure for any school in Masvingo Province; probably three or four times bigger than the next school.
    Opened in 1958, Vic High has 5 hostels that are all two-storey buildings. There are five dining halls at Vic High and every other boarding school in Masvingo has just one dining hall. It has 4 classroom blocks that are two storey and the largest sports facilities for any educational institution in Masvingo.
    A real estate agent estimated the value of the infrastructure at Vic High at $15million. The once all-white school has more than 10 sports fields which all require huge sums of money to maintain. There are 1 067 pupils at the school; 556 borders and 551 day scholars. The borders are paying a paltry $570 while the day scholars pay $184 and the total revenue per term is $418 304.
    The parents are protesting against any further fees increases and to make matters worse many children don’t pay their school fees.
    The water bill for the school alone is an astronomic $23 000 per month which translates to $92 000 per term and this chews 22% of the total school fees budget. The school has 26 ancillary staff represented by their unions and they take home a $19 000 or $76 000 a term which is 18% of the total budget.
    These two items which are not really part of Vic High’s core business absorb $168 000 a term or 40% of the total revenue and the head must ensure that the little that remain is adequate for everything else including food for students, cleaning, sports, maintenance, practical subjects, electricity and incidentals.
     The majority of the ancillary staff who are really security guards, kitchen staff and cleaners earn much more than the teachers including the school head because they are represented by National Employment Councils.
    Last week the National Social Security Authority garnished $6 000 in pensions for the ancillary staff and this money was grabbed from a school account meant for children’s food.
    Masvingo City Council disconnects water every time that the school fails to raise the $23 000 and last week the situation was the same. The situation is so bad that the school now has water bill arrears of over $300 000. Vic High has become a cash cow for the City Council.
    “To say that we have a shoe string budget is to understate the situation. There is so much that needs to be done but very little resources to meet the obligations. We have however successfully carried out some major projects like buying a school bus and renovating another; constructing a 2.1km long security wall and renovating some hostels and classrooms and buying mattresses,” said Muzamani.
    Muzamani said some parents complain against alleged mismanagement without taking time to understand the situation.
    “We have parents who complain that Vic High is no longer what it used to be. They don’t appreciate the situation that was there then and what obtains now is totally different. We however, are trying our best,” said Muzamani.
    He said the SDA has also been hamstrung by executive members including the chairman who stayed far away in such places as Harare. He said he is having difficulties in regularly bringing them to meetings.
    The School Development Association (SDA) chairman Brighton Nerupiri chipped in and said Vic High used to be an all-white school with immense support from wealthy individuals and companies like Tongaat Hulett and N Richards.
    He said that the structures at the school belong to the Ministry of Public Works and were in the past maintained by the Ministry. Public Works has since stopped maintenance work and this has left the school with an impossible task to maintain the school.
    “This is a school where school fees alone is not enough. Remember this is a former elite school whose massive infrastructure was kept going by wealthy individuals and companies including the likes of Bikita Minerals, CSC, Shabani Mashaba Mine, Tongaat Hulett and N Richards.
    “We have massive buildings constructed in the 50s’ that now needs constant maintenance. We have some of the most modern and sophisticated sports grounds that require a lot of attention and this cannot be sustained with the fees that we are getting from parents. It’s too little.
    “You can bring any headmaster here but as long as certain fundamentals are not corrected, problems in the school will not go away. Headmasters don’t stay for long here because this school has serious problems,” said Nerupiri.
    The Mirror was taken on a tour of the school on Friday last week. There is no mistaking that the school and the community that it now service are misfits. Vic High was for the rich, the infrastructure and the sports fields are for the elites.
    Now it has over 500 day scholars drawn from the high density suburbs. The poor parents can hardly pay fees of $184 per term and some of the parents are said to have gone for three years without meeting their fees obligations.
    The boarders are also children from the working class some of whom find it difficult to pay fees for even mission schools.
    The result is that there is no money and most of the sports fields lie idle. The Peter Stokes Squash Courts, the only one in the province has been idle for seven years now. Rugby, handball, cricket and beach volleyball grounds are undoubtedly underutilised.
    Scoreboards have disappeared, tracks, pavilions have crumbled and the once beautiful manicured lawn in the sports fields is now heath. It is now almost all wild grass.
    The hard truth is unless Government addresses fundamentals and match the school with the right community; the story will continue to be whither Vic High.
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