Zimbabwean parents who cannot raise tuition fees for their children can offer livestock or do chores in lieu of payment, a cabinet minister has said.

Several state-run primary schools in Glen View, Harare, have already adopted the arrangement.

According to Primary and Secondary Education Minister Dr Lazarus Dokora: “Our schools have to be flexible and ensure those who do not have money to pay fees can work. For example, if there is a builder in the community, he/she must be given that opportunity to work as a form of payment of tuition fees.”

The ministry’s permanent secretary Dr Sylvia Utete-Masango added: “Schools should not turn away pupils for not paying tuition fees. Instead, parents of the concerned children can pay the fees using livestock. That is mostly for rural areas but parents in towns and cities can pay through other means, for instance, doing certain work for the school.

“In terms of valuation, school heads will stand in for the Primary and Secondary Education Ministry and school development committee members for parents. They will jointly determine the value of the livestock and can then use the money realised to upgrade school infrastructure or help with agriculture.”

However, Zimbabwean Teachers’ Association secretary-general John Mlilo implored authorities to reconsider the options.

“I do not think that is sustainable… so many parents have outstanding balances.

“Therefore, I am trying to imagine those 1 000-plus parents coming to work at a school. There will be commotion! Talk about self-esteem… children will be subject to ridicule and bullying and the concerned parents themselves will not feel good about it. Why spend time doing manual labour at a school when they can go there to look for a good job?

“The assumption also is that parents in rural areas have some sort of wealth. What if they don’t? And then what? Go and work? The ministry should look for more viable options.”

A parent in Harare Tawanda Tsomondo said: “If people pay school fees using livestock, where will the money to run the school come from? We cannot run schools with goats. People should just look for money to pay for their children’s tuition.”

Another, Cecilia Mbanje, said: “I think it works for people in rural areas, not people like us in town. Government should just address the issue of money shortages so that everyone has access to the dollar and can pay fees.”

Some rural schools were allowing parents to pay fees in the form of livestock, such as goats and chickens, due to the persistent cash crisis in the country.

A teacher at Nhoro Primary School in Matondera, about 70km east of Harare, said: “The school has accepted this form of payment, as it is better than not paying anything."