HomeLettersFleeced at Lusitania Primary School

Fleeced at Lusitania Primary School

I AM a disgruntled parent at Lusitania Primary School in Greendale. We are told that the school is owned and run by the Portuguese Association which is represented by a board chaired by one Eric Marques.

e=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>I am not very clear of the other board members except for one fellow by the name Martin Muchero. Most people will be familiar with the fellow’s other exploits at the GMB.

The issue that has prompted me to write this letter is the determination of school fees for 2006.

First term fees have been pegged at about $31 million, up from $8 million this past term.

Although no one expects the fees to remain static, increases should nevertheless be reasonable and be commensurate with the school standards and facilities among other things.

The budget that was presented on the day of school closure was driven by expenditure.

Total expenditure for the year was crudely grossed up and divided by 350 (total number of students) to come up with the fee. Needless to say that the income part of the budget was kept a closely-guarded secret by the headmistress and her board.

Major highlights of the budget were the payroll and rentals. Payroll escalated from a 2005 figure of about $3,6 billion to over $18 billion in 2006.

This was determined by a 75% salary increase to be effected in the first term, another 75% increase in the second term and a 50% increase in the third term.

All the generous increments are compounded. For example, if one earns $25 million/month now, they will expect a cheque of $43,75 million come January and a cheque of $76,6 million/month in term two.

In term three, they will collect a cool $114,8 million/month plus bonus. These are just teachers mind you!

I wonder how many in the parents’ body in the middle class and even executives in the private sector are getting such generous increments and will be able to sustain such an expensive appetite for money by the school in future.

Another interesting highlight is the item of rentals on the budget. This is a new item which carries a figure of about $350 million. The recipient of this cool figure is not clear. The issue at stake is who owns what?

The board advised that the Portuguese Association owns and runs the school while the Portuguese Embassy owns the land on which the school is built. I am not sure whether our landlord is the Portuguese Embassy or the Association. In that case, I find it completely unfair for the school authorities to demand PTA levies to construct a classroom block whose ownership is not clear.

In the past, and out of ignorance and in the true spirit of wanting to develop the school, we have forked out money towards construction of the swimming pool and the driveway and purchase of the school bus. I suggest that the PTA subscriptions be stopped until the ownership of assets is clarified to the PTA.

In the same vein, the issue of rentals should be clarified because we cannot build and own an asset and continue to pay rentals.

Another issue at stake is corporate governance which seems to be seriously compromised.

The school headmistress, who is responsible for compiling and implementing the budget, is in the enviable position that her husband presents and approves the same budget. Mind you, this is not a private or family business!

The budget presenter is so foul-mouthed to the extent of telling the whole PTA body to go to hell if they do not agree with the budget proposals.

At voting, about eight parents voted in favour of the budget. This number comprised six teachers who either do not pay fees or have their fees subsidised.

The rest of the parents rejected the budget proposal at which point Muchero advised them to take their kids elsewhere next year if they did not approve of it.

Although this is a private school, it nevertheless is a public institution which members of the public (PTA body) sustains.

Without the fee-paying parents, there would not be any Lusitania to talk about. In that respect, I suggest that at least the PTA committee be availed the audited financials.

I also believe that more interesting revelations would emerge if another audit company were to carry out an investigation.

Through this letter, I implore the authorities to come to the rescue of parents who are being fleeced by the school management in liaison with the board.

Although we are agreed that this is a private school, facilities and standards do not match those at schools like Gateway, Eaglesvale, Chisipite and Ruzawi, among others. Similarly, salaries and school fees should not be benchmarked according to these schools.

My concern is that things must be sorted out for the good of our school and its students. We want to continue on a constructive path.

The board must be clearly presented to the PTA body so that we do not have surprises such as the ex-GMB boss presenting panel-beaten figures to us.

The constitution must be made available to every interested party, especially the PTA.

The relationship between the PTA, the school and the board should be clarified. The terms of engagement of the PTA committee in the running of the school, and in particular the budgeting process, should be made clear.

I sincerely hope that the school management and board should climb down from their over-elevated positions and start working with the parents in a constructive and open manner which will ensure the continued existence of the school.

The fact that they either do not have, or no longer have, children at the school should not give them a licence to operate in this cartel-like fashion.

Disgruntled Parent,


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