School fees increases  must be reasonable

MOST schools countrywide, particularly boarding schools, have adjusted their tuition and levy fees upwards, a development that has dealt a blow to many parents whose salary purses in their various workplaces have not expanded.

These increases have affected schools across the whole spectrum — government, private and church-run institutions — both primary and secondary, have all upped their fees in one way or the other. 

They all cite an increase in the prices of basic commodities and services. The situation has worsened since Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s announcement of the Transitional Stabilisation Programme and subsequent floating of the bond note — a surrogate currency introduced by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in November 2016.

With prices going up all around them, there is no way schools could be left out. However, while increases have to come, it is the magnitude and mode of increases that have been of concern for most parents and guardians.  There are schools that have become notorious for requesting parents to pay top-up fees all the time to circumvent the need to seek authorisation for fee increases from the Education ministry.

Some have requested parents to buy selected grocery items to augment their termly supplies. Parents’ pockets are already strained because their employers have not found room to review their salaries owing to the depressed economy.

There is, however, another set of schools that have even gone on to demand fees in United States dollars (USD). While it is within their rights, especially private schools, to charge the fees they want, there is a real risk this will set a wrong example for the rest of the education sector on the one hand, while also making education a preserve of the affluent on the other.

Prices all over have gone up, meaning schools must also increase their tuition and levy fees. However, they should be considerate in doing so because they could soon see some learners dropping out of school completely as their parents and guardians struggle to pay the new school fees.
Once children drop out of school, the storyline changes entirely because it is the right of these children to an education that would have been infringed upon.

The Primary and Secondary Education ministry and that of Higher and Tertiary Education must ensure they remain in control of the increases, otherwise all the gains that had been registered in the sector so far will be eroded completely.


 

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