Parents are up in arms with some private schools which are planning to make them technically pay school fees for four terms for the 2021 academic year.
The Zimbabwean school calendar has three learning terms. There are several memos making rounds at private schools proposing fees hikes for this term in the range of 100%. If approved, it means parents have to make a fee top-up to cover the balance of the new fees.
The schools have been citing an increase in operational costs and the falling buying power of the RTGS which they claim has decreased by 40%. They said this was the major driving factor behind their plan for a hike.
”The purchasing power of the RTGS has declined by about 40% (current auction-rate RTGS $84; alternative rate RTGS $120). This has resulted in an effective 40% discount on the USD Fees income which in turn has compromised the school’s ability to pay its budgeted expenses that suppliers have pegged to the alternative market rate,” read one of the proposal letters addressed to parents.
Some parents now feel that such a situation means that they will be paying for four terms since the first one is almost over.
“They are saying it’s just a proposal but obviously this is what they want, and if this goes through we are expected to make a top up on what we have already paid for this term. How do you then justify a hike when there are only a few weeks left before schools close,” a parent who preferred to remain anonymous said.
Also, they feel the fees are already high especially with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Many of the parents are questioning the legality of these sudden hikes and have called on associations to intervene. Sadly, for them, this avenue is not an option.
Association of Trust Schools’ Chief Executive, Tim Middleton says schools are independent when coming up with school fees structures.
“They do their own governance procedures, they have their own vision, so how they run the schools has nothing to do with us,” Middleton said.
Parents have pinned their hopes of positive intervention on the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. The ministry maintains that there is a procedure that must be followed before fees are raised and only a proposed hike agreed upon by the school and the parents would be considered.
“There is always a procedure when new fees structures are proposed by schools. The parents and the schools meet and then agree on a proposed adjustment to a fees structure, so what the ministry considers is an approved position by both parties,” Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson, Taungana Ndoro said.