Chikomba – Mash East Provincial EducationDirector (PED), Anatoria Ncube has warned that the $50 cellphone levy being introduced by the Minister of Finance is going to have a serious negative effect on the education sector.

Ncube whose stance was supported by teachers throughout the Province toldThe Mirror in an interview that rural parents are not going to afford the gadgets needed for their children’s education.Some parents actually called for subsidies on cellphones because of the critical role the gadgets play on all sectors of the economy including the enjoyment of fundamental rights.

“The levy will have a gross and negative impact on the rural people who are the majority of our population. Parents will not afford these gadgets and this will negatively impact on rural education,” said Ncube. Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union inZimbabwe (ARTUZ) president, Obert Masararure said that the cellphone levy which Minister Mthuli Ncube insists on introducing will cripple education.

Cellphones are not a luxury but a tool for education needed by pupils and students from the lowest grades up to University, said Masararure. He appealed to Government to scrap the levy. He also said that Zimbabwe was lagging far behind other countries in terms of digitalisation. Masararure was speaking at the launch of his organisation’s voter education campaign in Chivhu. Teachers and Chivhu residents who spoke to The Mirror also condemned the Minister’s move.

They argued that cellphones were critical gadgets for sending and accessing information hence they enabled citizens to enjoy the fundamental right to information. They also said that the gadget is critical for all sectors of the economy. Minister Mthuli Ncube presented his budget before Parliament last Thursday and proposed the introduction of the US$50 duty on cellphones but with that tax being refunded within 30 days if import duty had been paid on the cellphone when it was imported.

Loveridge Ncube, a vendor in Chivhu CBD said it was a contradiction for Government to impose cellphone levy when the country is trying to digitalise. “We are trying to digitalise as a nation, E-learning is becoming popular in schools and boom we introduce new taxes on gadgets. The Minister is like the right hand that doesn’t know what the left hand is doing,” Ncube.

Elvina Chiriseri said the levy will further marginalize the rural populace from the digital era. She actually argued for subsidies on cellphones. “This levy will further cripple the poor. Cellphones here are expensive yet they are cheap in neighbouring South Africa.

Rural populations will be further marginalised. It will mean no E-learning to rural pupils,” said Chiriseri. Langton Hoko, a teacher at Nyazvidzi Primary school said the move is insensitive to the poor. “The Minister lacks empathy. The move spells a death knell on E learning,” said Hoko.

Badza Primary School teacher, Emmanuel Punungwe said the levy goes against E-learning. “The levy is harsh and it goes against the digital economy. Virtual learning has become critical in the face of unpredictable school terms caused by Covid19 pandemics,” said Punungwe.