Massive fees hike as schools re-open Monday

by Tulip Charowa

SCHOOLS have begun sending new fees advices to parents and guardians ahead of the re-opening of schools next Monday, with some schools planning a shock 300% fees hike.

Schools re-open on Monday with the resumption of O-Level and A-Level examinations following the fortnight 17 December break for Christmas and New Year. The rest of the pupils start a week later on Monday January 10.

Government has warned schools not to hike school fees without going through the proper procedures and encouraged them to have payment plans available if parents needed these so that no learners will be disturbed.

However, learning institutions are pushing for increases of up to 200% to hedge against the depreciation of the local Zimbabwe currency against the US dollar on the parallel market.

The official exchange rate on the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe auction market is at $109 to the United States dollar. On the parallel market, however, the local currency ia hovering at just above $200 to the greenback.

There is virtually no ready foreign currency on the official market, and most firms including schools rely on the parallel market to meet their hard currency needs such as fuel, overheads and other procurements.

Government has in the past resorted to freezing school fees increases in public schools and threatening to deregister private schools that demanded schools fees in foreign currency.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary-general Japhet Moyo predicted tough times ahead for parents and guardians.

“Most school development committees have already told parents that fees have more than doubled coming into the next year while salaries remain low. What it means is that there might be dropouts or children will have to be transferred to cheaper schools, come next year,” Moyo said.

“Those (workers), who went to their rural homes might not come back if they don’t have livestock to sell. The cost of living has just gone up and looking at all the other fundamentals, 2022 is not going to be a stroll in the park.”

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe expressed fear that civil servants will fail to send their children to school. He said this after having looked at proposed 2022 budgets for various schools.

“Teachers and civil servants won’t be able to send their children to school in 2022. Already we have noted that most private schools, which are owned by the politicians, are charging fees in US dollars. Those schools run by the government are looking to charge four to five times more than they did last term if they are to offer quality education,” he said.

Majongwe said without US dollar salaries, there was no joy for civil servants in 2022.

“Unless we are paid in US dollars, it is going to be the most torturous journey because the close to a trillion Zimdollar budget by (Finance Minister Mthuli) Ncube means nothing when it is not supporting a better life for the down trodden,” Majongwe said.

Civil servants have been pushing for US dollar-denominated salaries, but the government has been pleading incapacitation.

Last month, the government paid its workers US dollar bonuses, a development that unions said was evidence that the government had the capacity to meet their demands.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson Taungana Ndoro confirmed that schools will re-open on Monday, and that the schools’ calendar for other non-examination classes would remain as previously announced unless changes are made.

“Other classes will return on previously announced dates unless new pronouncements are made,” he added.

The first term for 2022 is set to begin on January 10. Schools holidays were reduced by a week to make for time lost due to the lockdowns.

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