Private school parents suffer fees hikes in silence

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PRIVATE schools have continued to hike fees disregarding Government directives and the struggles parents face as a result of Covid-19 and the economic impact that lockdowns have had on incomes.

Most of the schools have started online lessons, with some excluding pupils whose fees is yet to be paid.

Last week, the Acting President who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Constantino Chiwenga extended the lockdown by two weeks and further deferred the opening of schools.

Dr Chiwenga said schools and parents will be given a week after the two-week lockdown to prepare for schools’ opening if the environment is conducive.

Initially, schools were set to open for the first term of the year on January 10, except for Form One classes whose opening day was earlier on deferred to a later date as their Grade Seven results are yet to be released.

But, the President on December 30 postponed the first term 2022 schools opening to a later date citing the need to mitigate Covid-19 infections that were being recorded across the country causing a rise in deaths.

Only examination classes continued with their initial calendar, and resumed their Zimsec examinations which end on January 27.

Government recently 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.

However, some private schools have hiked school fees for the first term with the highest charging US$3 000.

In most cases, parents and guardians who deem fees being charged as ridiculous choose to suffer in silence, fearful that approaching the ministry will affect their children.

Dominican Convent is charging $180 000, Girls College $345 000, Christian Brothers College (CBC) US$ 1 300, Whitestone US$1 350, and S.O.S US$600 payable in local currency at bank rate.

Carmel is charging US$800, Centenary US$850, Montessori US$600 and US$50 for levy, Amazon charges US$500, Petra senior $264 000, Petra Junior is $176 000, Midlands Christian College (MCC) fees range from US$858 to US$1 408 for day scholars, and US$1 624 to US$3 872 for boarders depending on the child’s form.

A parent who spoke on condition of anonymity, expressed her frustrations at the fees increment.

“I’m not happy with the increment, especially given the fact that we  don’t earn much and from the look of things, our children are not learning as expected. It’s frustrating really.

“The increment is uncalled for. Our children are also not getting enough food in boarding schools yet we pay such huge amounts of money,” she said.

Recently, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson, Mr Taungana Ndoro said only tuition fees structures that have been approved by the ministry will be considered binding.

Yesterday, he said fees approvals will be done on a case-by-case basis.

The Education Act states that 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.

Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) president Mr Richard Gundani said due process is not being followed by schools.

“These fees hikes must be informed by reality, and the realities on the ground are determined particularly by the parents who are the stakeholders in the schools, so what is supposed to happen is that proper information has to be given to the parents and these parents then work a plan of how they can tackle this issue looking at the budget.

“What we have realised now when we are talking to parents of children in these private schools is they are beginning to cry foul saying that the fees are now too high, then we get surprised as to who is determining this issue.

“So, the thing is, due process in most cases is not being followed in terms of determining these fees because the parents are crying foul, and in most cases that they do not get value for their money,” he said. – Chronicle