Schools calls on for more fees as teachers’ unions press for salary review

Hartzell High School in Mutare has asked parents for fees top-up to keep their children at school after budget was exhausted

BULAWAYO – Schools around the country have sent distress calls to parents for a fees “top-up” after their budgets were shrivelled by inflation.

One school said it had food rations up to June 22, after which it would be forced to close – more than a month before the end of the second term on August 4.

The schools SOS comes as teachers have demanded an urgent meeting with the Public Service Commission, warning that the RTGS component of their salaries – estimated at around Z$25,000 – is now “meaningless.”

Hartzell High School in Mutare said the Z$55,000 fees paid by parents at the start of the second term on May 7 “has been eroded by inflation.”

Headmaster Shorwi Kawadza, in a letter to parents dated June 9, said the school “will not be able to feed the learners beyond Wednesday, June 22, 2022.”

He added: “I will not be able to keep the children at school, hence I will ask you to collect our learners from school.”

Kawadza warned that the desperate situation the school finds itself in could disrupt the mid-year exams due to start on July 11.

He told parents that “together, we must find a solution.”

The government regulates fees charged by government and mission schools, and the ministry of primary and secondary education has decreed that no school should peg fees in United States dollars.

On Tuesday, four teachers’ unions petitioned the Public Service Commission (PSC) to “resolve the problem at hand before it gets out of hand.” Unions want salaries paid in United States dollars to hedge against currency depreciation, but the government has only partially agreed to the request.

In a letter to the PSC, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union, the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, the Educators Union of Zimbabwe and the Professional Educators’ Union of Zimbabwe said despite claims by the government of ongoing negotiations to review salaries, no meeting has taken place since February when civil servants’ salaries were last reviewed with a 20 percent increment.

The Zimbabwe dollar has slid from around 210 in February to about 600 against the United States dollar since February, wiping off the value of salaries. Runaway price increases have exacerbated the teachers’ despair.

“Renumeration for teachers and the other civil servants has been eroded beyond measure as a result of galloping inflation in the last few months,” the unions said in a letter to the PSC.

They warned of “spontaneous actions by individual teachers all over the country as a result of the degrading circumstances they find themselves in.”

Separately, the largest teachers’ body, the Zimbabwe Teachers Union (ZIMTA), said in a statement that the government should “restore teachers’ dignity by paying United States dollar salaries.”

“Educators are not asking for too much, just an urgent salary review is enough. The struggle for teachers is real. A whole salary cannot buy a formal pair of shoes from local manufacturers,” ZIMTA said.

When teachers went on strike in February, the government responded by suspending them and docking their pay. The High Court has since nullified the suspensions. – ZimLive

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