Incessant school fee hikes : a burden to many


Schools open tomorrow amid calls by the Government for strict regulations to curb unilateral fees hikes. Most schools applied to the Government for permission to raise fees citing rising operating costs. The applications were turned down, but some schools increased tuition fees and levies in defiance of the Government directive adding to the burden of most families who are already struggling to pay for their children's education.

Many schools had provisionally raised fees in anticipation of a positive response from the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture. Some schools are justified to increase fees, but these increases should be tied to what would have been agreed between SDCs, school authorities and parents. No approval will be contemplated without proof that there was an agreement meeting between parents and school administrators. Reports said some schools will be backdating the increases and demanding the difference from the last term. Parents should brace for an increase in school fees next year as Government is failing to adequately fund the education sector which has been underfunded for over a decade. Some parents have appealed for Government intervention to ensure the margin of the increases is justified. The parents said some of them could not afford the new fees as they have been struggling to pay the current fees.

When the 2012 school year started in January, many students failed to return to school because both public and private institutions had raised their fees by an average of 40%.[i] Teachers were also demanding an increase in salaries, with government claiming there was no money. In January, government boarding schools increased their fees by 20%. Just four months later, fees are being hiked again with most such increases range between 20 percent and 30 percent. According to the Education Act, a school raising fees must first convene a meeting with parents, present a budget to them, gain approval and then send the budget, the list of parents at the meeting, and minutes of the meeting, which include the votes, to the Ministry for approval or modification

The school system was de-centralised last year, with government relinquishing power and responsibility for school fees to the provinces. Mr Oswald Madziva of the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) in an interview explained that this has brought a new set of problems which are side effects of decentralisation.

At independence in 1980 Zimbabwe had one of the most highly rated school systems in the world, producing quality students who competed and excelled at the top universities. This system has deteriorated since independence and Zimbabwean government officials are often strongly criticised for sending their children to school outside the country. Because of the government's under-funding of the education sector, school development committees are now saddled with an extra responsibility of mobilising funds to award teachers incentives.

Education is every child's right and it is high time the people of Zimbabwe confront the monster, which is failing to fund education than putting more burden on the parents.


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