By NQOBANI NDLOVU
BULAWAYO city fathers are considering hiking tuition fees at council-run schools next term, arguing the cost of subsidising education, among other services, had sunk the local authority into a $2 million deficit.
Council schools are charging an average of less than $150 per child, inclusive of fees, levies and other amenities per term.
Council last increased tuition fees at its schools in 2018, when the value of the local currency and United States dollar were at par.
Government has, however, outlawed the use of foreign currencies and introduced a local unit which has been on a free-fall, sparking price hikes of basic goods and services.
City fathers said council-run schools were not spared by the harsh economic climate as the cost of education has been on an upward trend, while tuition fees remained stagnant — a situation which is unsustainable.
A report of the council’s general purposes committee stated that councillors agreed that the local authority could not continue subsidising education.
“Prices of goods and services have since skyrocketed and council is no longer financially capacitated to procure most essential goods and services needed for the daily running of its schools,” the council report read.
The report added: “…however, the increase would only cater for sports and textbook levies. The funds would be remitted back to schools to enable them to purchase textbooks.
“He (director of housing and community services, Simela Dube) further explained that education was subsidised by council and this increase would only reduce the deficit by a small amount out of a deficit of over $2 million.
“Council discussed strategies that could be used to reduce the budget deficit and reviewing of school fees, among others, was one of the strategies that had been considered. Council tariffs were sub-economic and the education system was subsidised.”
Schools are supposed to seek government approval before any tuition fee hike. Council has since applied to the Education ministry to increase fees for the third term, but the application has not yet been approved.
Educationist Ben Moyo, who is also the secretary for education in the Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association, said: “They cannot unilaterally increase fees without following due process.
“What the BCC must do is to follow the Education Act, which calls on them to convene a meeting with parents and guardians, where an increment is discussed.
The ministry has the final say on fees increment.”