The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
THE Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has given schools the greenlight to produce and sell uniforms, but warned schools not force parents to buy uniforms from them if there are cheaper options.
In an interview, the director for Communication and Advocacy in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Mr Taungana Ndoro, said schools were not supposed to force parents to buy uniforms that they produce when they have cheaper alternatives.
“Schools are allowed to produce their own uniforms and sell them to the parents, it is very correct. The uniforms have to be affordable and cheaper than the open market so that parents have access to them. We also said the uniforms must meet the right quality, colour schemes and branding in order for them to be sold by schools,” he said.
Mr Ndoro said it was illegal to force parents to purchase the uniforms from the schools.
“What is wrong is then forcing the parents to buy strictly from the schools. They must not be forced to buy where they do not want and where it is expensive,” he said.
However, Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) said they were willing to work with schools around them to supply them with uniforms at “reasonable prices” where the schools make a profit and the SMEs also take in something.
The Coordinator of the Bulawayo Chamber of Small to Medium enterprises Mr Nketha Dlamini said the sector was equally concerned and has engaged rural schools for such partnerships.
“Of particular interest to us as SMEs is the rural schools that are far from retail shops. We are engaging them to say the SMEs supply them directly with uniforms and stationery at affordable prices.
“We did a survey in Plumtree and realised that parents were paying more in transport costs from rural Mangwe to Plumtree town to buy a single uniform that was way cheaper than what they paid for transport,” he said.
Mr Dlamini said this was forcing parents to then purchase one uniform while the rest of their money covered transport costs.
“We then want to change this and improve access to uniforms and decrease costs by bringing the uniforms closer to the learners ensuring they get adequate uniforms. So, we are actually meeting with the responsible authorities from Bulilima and Mangwe to discuss the modalities.
“I have been sewing uniforms for years and selling to parents in the community that I live in, given the opportunity I am willing together with other entrepreneurs to be contacted by the schools and supply them with uniforms, hats, tracksuits, and jerseys. This way we are supported as businesses around the community and parents easily access uniforms within a walking distance from their homes,” she said.
Mrs Dube said this would ensure local economies are developed at the same time-saving parents’ time and money by travelling to purchase the uniforms.
“Again, if uniforms are sold at schools starting from community level, there is a chance for those parents who may be less fortunate to buy uniforms from the school and pay for them in instalments.
“This ensures the child attends classes with others fully clothed than for them to miss classes as they will not have uniforms. We have to be considerate also when we live in communities as not everyone is empowered the same,” added Mrs Dube. – @NyembeziMu