Govt okays fees hike for schools

HARARE - Government has given some schools them green light to increase their tuition fees and levies to enable them to survive the harsh economic climate, the Daily News can report.

The fee increases, approved on a case-by-case basis, compound pressures on struggling parents and guardians whose earnings are being eroded daily by the rising cost of living.

As of 2013, the country had nearly 8 200 primary and second schools dotted across Zimbabwe.

Their ownership is split between church organisations, government, private and councils, which own nearly 80 percent of the schools.

In terms of the existing government policy, all schools — with the exception of those in private hands — must apply to the ministry of Primary and Secondary Education for permission to review their tuition and levies.

While the Daily News could not immediately establish the number of schools whose applications have been approved, the publication has it on good authority that nearly all those institutions that sought the green light from the ministry received the thumbs up.

In Mashonaland West, Chinhoyi High School was given the nod to increase its fees from $570 to $1051 for boarding, while day fees will go up from $110 to $140 with effect from the first term.

David Livingstone School in Ntabazinduna (Matabeleland North) has gone up from $580 to $850 per term while Chegato High School in Mberengwa (Midlands) has reviewed its fees from $480 to $710.

Tumisang Thabela, the secretary in the ministry of Primary and Secondary Education told journalists in Bulawayo over the weekend that indeed the ministry has approved school fees increases for some schools.

“Schools that have increased fees are essentially those that have applied and followed due processes. Those were granted authority to increase fees. We have a circular out where the minister told schools that because of the realities on the ground we can’t say don’t increase fees but it has to be justified and there is a due process that they have to follow,” Thabela said, while emphasising that none of the schools has been given the green light to charge exclusively in foreign currency.

“Demanding a certain currency is not acceptable. However, there are certain schools that are said to be doing it without our knowledge,” she said.

In the face of a wave of price increases experienced from September last year, several schools advised parents and guardians of major adjustments in their fee structures to stay afloat.

In fact, some of the schools, especially those privately-owned, now require tuition fees to be paid in United States dollars (USDs) to cushion themselves from the depreciating value of the bond note and balances reflected in the Real Time Gross Settlement system.

This drew condemnation from parents and government which intervened by directing non-private schools against increasing fees before submitting applications from the ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

The latest development has been met with disgruntlement among parents who feel that the increases will render education an elite entitlement as many, particularly civil servants, will certainly not afford it.

This comes as government workers are itching to take to the streets to press their employer to dispense their salaries in USDs to compensate for incomes that are being eroded by inflation.

Meanwhile, some parents at Chinhoyi High School with the help of a named Member of Parliament are resisting the fee hike, accusing the school authorities of unilateralism.

In a letter to the provincial education director dated January 7, the aggrieved parents said while they appreciate the need to review fees upwards in view of the economic environment, “our school management has not been analytical as they took a firefighting approach by isolating affected parents in the decision-making and budget formulation”.

The parents are allegedly being sponsored by Zanu PF MP for Magunje Cecil Kashiri whose child is also a learner at Chinhoyi High.

Kashiri told the Daily News yesterday that he was merely playing his role as a parent.

“I have a son at the school and would not want to antagonise anybody there but there are issues at the school and as an MP and parent at the same time, I am only playing my representative and oversight role,” Kashiri said adding that he had engaged the school authorities on the matter.

In the letter which Kashiri confirmed to be part of, the parents want an extraordinary meeting to be held at the school to reconsider the issue of fees.