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Schools warned against hiking fees without Government approval

School pupils

GOVERNMENT has directed all public schools that intend to adjust their tuition fees and school development levies for the 2022 first term to apply for approval from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education before effecting the changes.

On Friday, Government further deferred the opening of schools for the 2022 academic year by at least three weeks, with authorities citing the need for schools to put in place Covid-19 preventative measures to allow for safe reopening.

The first term was supposed to start on January 10, but President Mnangagwa on December 31 indefinitely deferred the opening of schools for teaching classes while allowing for the resumption of classes for Ordinary and Advanced Level pupils with outstanding examinations.

The reopening of schools will now depend on the prevailing Covid-19 situation after three weeks. In an interview with our Harare Bureau, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education director of communication and advocacy Mr Taungana Ndoro said only tuition fees structures that have been approved by the ministry will be considered binding.

In terms of the Education Act, any tuition fees adjustment must be approved by a majority of the parents at a meeting of the School Parents Assembly attended by not less than 20 percent of the parents.

The school authorities will then tender an application for an adjustment accompanied by minutes of the meeting and the school budget to the Ministry for processing. Mr Ndoro said Government does not impose tuition fees on schools.

“Parents and the schools must have school development plans and budgets every year. They put the budget proposals, including any proposed school fees adjustments, to a vote and they come up with a consensus on whether to adjust school fees.

They then approach the ministry with that adjustment proposal for the ministry to validate or approve that agreed position. So what the ministry does is to endorse an already agreed position between the parents and the school. Where you have issues of parents complaining, it is either perhaps they have not attended the meeting or they were outvoted. We don’t impose any school fees structure on any school”.

Mr Ndoro said some schools do not even apply for adjustment because their current fees structure will be adequate to fund their budgets.

“We cannot say we are going to adjust fees when some schools are comfortable with the school fees that was approved last time.

We look at the applications on a case by case basis. One school’s needs differ from those of the next because school development projects are different. Some may want to build a school hall, others want to build a tennis court and others want to build hostels, so their needs are very different.”

Zimbabwe Schools Development Association/Committees secretary-general Mr Evaristo Jongwe said: “Tuition fees structure is determined by an individual school’s scenario.

Parents and the school administration agree on set figures according to their needs, wants and projects for the school.

However, I must admit that parents are facing challenges with tuition fees adjustments because of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the average rate of school fees collection remains below 50 percent and the demand for Covid-19 materials also remains a challenge. The worst affected schools are those in rural, farm and peri-urban areas.”

Last year, Government used $2 billion to provide educational assistance to 1 163 738 vulnerable children under the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM).

Speaking to our Harare Bureau recently, Public Service Minister Professor Paul Mavima said the Government will provide assistance to 1,5 million pupils this year under BEAM.

“As at 13 December, 2021, the BEAM programme had reached out to 1 163 738 vulnerable children with educational assistance through support by both Government and development partners against a possible threshold of 1 500 000 children targeted for 2021. Going into 2022, about 1,5 million learners are being targeted by Government to receive a full education package support encompassing tuition fees, uniforms and stationery.”

-Sunday News

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