No to US$ school fees: Govt

GOVERNMENT has given schools the greenlight to increase levies and boarding fees to cushion them from inflation-induced price hikes, but turned down the request by some schools to charge in hard currency.

BY XOLISANI NCUBE

Briefing teachers’ unions last Friday, Primary and Secondary Education ministry secretary Tumisang Thabela said government had approved the fees hike.

Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said Thabela had informed the union leadership that government, which initially requested for applications for fee increases from schools, accompanied by audited accounts, had approved the increases.

“It is sad that while salaries are not being increased, government has approved the school fees hike. How does it expect us to pay these exorbitant amounts? We have school uniforms going as high as $800 and then school fees as high as $2 500. It is ridiculous to say the least,” Zhou said.

Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure described the hikes as sad news.

“We are coming from a meeting with the new permanent secretary. She broke the sad news that government had approved the school fees hike. It’s sad,” Masaraure said.

Many schools had issued circulars advising parents of the pending fees hikes in response to the country’s runaway inflation, which has seen prices of basic commodities increasing, sometimes three-fold.

Private schools had also hiked fees, citing the increase in running costs, while others are demanding US dollars for levies.

Schools such as Masaisai Primary School in Harare have increased fees from $700 to $950, while Bryanston Pre-School in central Harare has given parents an option to pay in either bond notes or US dollars.

Those paying in US dollars are expected to fork out $265, which translates to about $800 in bond notes.

According to Statutory Instrument (SI) 1597A of 2007, government-controlled schools have to seek approval from the parent ministry before hiking fees.

The law states that the request should indicate the basis upon which the levies are calculated and justification. The request is supposed to be accompanied by current audited accounts, minutes of a properly constituted meeting of not less than 20% of the school parents’ assembly which approved the proposed budget.

Primary and Secondary Education minister Paul Mavima and Thabela were unavailable for comment at the time of going to print.