December 20, 2019

Zim’s great school fees debate

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ZTN Reporter

The Zimbabwean government says schools should not increase fees by more than 20 percent without its approval.

But while the move has naturally been welcomed by the already overburdened parents, educationists warn that schools may struggle to offer quality tuition if they are not allowed to increase fees to levels that will see them meet their day to day costs.

Schools in the Southern African country are seeking to raise fees before the start of the next term next month, citing rising costs.

However, parents feel some of the proposed increases are exorbitant.

On Thursday, Zimbabwe’s acting Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Kirsty Coventry told parliament that increase should be agreed upon by parents during properly constituted meetings.

“The fees are increased by parents at properly constituted meetings and schools should adhere to decisions and recommendations of the SDCs (School Development Committees),” she said.

“Our fees should comply with Statutory Instrument 121 of 2019 where pricing is done in local currency and this does not give room for rating fees according to prevailing bank rate since all fees are in local currency. Application for fees increases should be below 20 percent increase and any other increases should be approved by the head of the ministry as directed in the Secretaries Circular Minute Number 6 of 2018.”

Some Government and mission boarding schools are reported to have already hiked fees without approval, especially for pupils starting Form One next year with some charging between $10 000 and $12 000.

Some elite private schools are charging their fees in foreign currency or in local currency at the prevailing inter-bank rate.

Coventry’s statement is naturally bringing smiles on the faces of both pupils and parents.

“It’s a good move by government but we await to see how they will deal with schools that are found on the wrong side of the law. As parents we appreciate the need to increase fees so that schools can meet their day to day costs but such increases must be justified,” said Miriam Jazi, a vendor in Harare.

But a school headmaster who spoke to ZTN warned that the move may have a negative effect of service delivery.

“Schools are not immune to the vagaries of inflation and must be allowed to increase fees to levels that will see them continue to deliver service. Government certainly means well but it must be a win, win situation,” he said.

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