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Govt tells private schools to reimburse parents

by Staff reporter
10 Sep 2021 at 06:20hrs | Views
Government has said private schools that increased fees without seeking approval must reimburse parents and guardians, as those behind the illegal hikes risk being jailed.

Some private schools have increased fees by up to 100 percent and most have been demanding cash upfront, refusing payment terms in settling the fees. As a result, some pupils enrolled at the schools are not going to school.

According to Government policy, non-payment of school fees must not affect a pupil and schools need to offer payment plans or sue defaulting parents.

No school, private, council or Government-run, is allowed to increase school fees without the approval of the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

In a statement yesterday, the permanent secretary, Mrs Tumisang Thabela, said Government will act against schools which are violating the law. She said the Education Act states that fees or levies being charged by non-governmental schools should be approved by the secretary and according to the act, offenders shall be fined or jailed for a period not exceeding six months or be liable to both a fine and imprisonment.

"Schools that had charged unapproved fees and levies should revert back to approved fees and levies and reimburse parents accordingly. The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education continues to strive to provide quality, relevant, inclusive, equitable and wholesome education for all Zimbabweans," she said.

Mrs Thabela said when seeking approval for increasing fees, the increment must be justified.

"The permanent secretary shall not approve any increase of fees or levies sought in respect of the next term of the non-Government schools unless the increase of such fees and levies are justified by reference to some basis other than the application of the consumer price index; and the proposal to increase fees or levies has been approved by a majority of the parents at a meeting of the School Parents Assembly attended by not less than twenty percent of the parents," she said.

A report of the Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education on the Operations of Private Schools during the lockdown tabled in the National Assembly recently, said most schools were pegging the United States dollar fees component to the black-market rate. The report said the schools must be investigated.

"We also recommend that the Education Amendment Act provides for the Competition and Tariff Commission to investigate any issues that are to do with fee structures. We are recommending as a committee that the Competition and Tariff Commission goes into the ATS and establishes whether the fees that are being charged are commensurate with what any other reasonable ordinary Zimbabwean would do because if it is not, then it is creating a monopoly and creating a particular enclave," committee chairperson Mrs Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said while presenting the report.

"Yes, there may be a system in which parents are asked to come and vote on a particular fee structure but because of all these issues involved with the fact that if you are the only one who is raising this, your child may be targeted and people feel intimidated.

"When we then tried to find out what the costs were, we found that most schools were pegging the US dollar fees component to the black-market rate and not necessarily to the current auction rate. We were also told that the biggest cost drivers for the trust schools were salaries, which are 60 percent to 70 percent."

Source - chroncile