BY TAFADZWA KACHIKO/LORRAINE MUROMO
GOVERNMENT and private schools have hiked fees ahead of opening day tomorrow citing the weakening Zimbabwe dollar.
While the bulk of schools were still assessing the situation, some private schools such as Falcon College, St George’s and government-run Prince Edward High School have already announced new fees.
Parents of children at Falcon are expected to fork out $1,3 million, equivalent to US$2 500 on the black market and US$6 300 at the official rate. This is an increase from around $600 000 for the third term last year which also sent shockwaves when it was announced.
Schools, like any other business in the country, are being informed by movements of the local currency on the parallel market.
The official exchange rate, as of last week, stood at $159,34 to the US dollar, while on the parallel market the greenback has been trading at between $380 and $400.
“Unfortunately, given the difficulty in accurately forecasting inflation trends, especially given the recent volatility, parents should note that we may raise a further fee by way of a top-up. Those parents, who wish to pay the fee in US dollars, will be exempted from any top-up,” Falcon College board of governors chairperson Andrew Marchussen wrote to parents in a letter dated April 11.
In a letter dated April 28, Prince Edward School head Aggrippa Sora said day scholars will pay $50 800, while boarders would part with $195 970.
Other schools, which reportedly hiked fees are Roman Catholic-run Marist Brothers Secondary School in Nyanga and Kutama High School.
Meanwhile, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Obert Masaraure told NewsDay that 90% of parents engaged by the union in various areas across the country did not have enough money to pay school fees, buy learning materials and provide logistical support to learners.
“The parents blamed underpayment at their workplaces as the reason why they are failing to fund the education of their children. Some revealed that they had lost employment after being retrenched during the COVID-19 crisis. Some parents in rural areas are now investing in buying food at the expense of education after experiencing a bad harvest this year,” Masaraure said.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said: “The arrogant government is pushing for the opening of schools and it seems it is not prepared to listen to any voice of reason. The big question is how will parents afford to pay exorbitant fees to facilitate the successful opening of schools? Teachers are also parents who received a salary of $18 000 that cannot even buy 4kg of kapenta fish. Now they are expecting $90 000 in school fees.”
Citizens Coalition for Change president Nelson Chamisa yesterday also said teachers were failing to send children to boarding schools because of low wages.
Contacted for comment, Primary and Secondary Education minister Evelyn Ndlovu said schools needed government permission before hiking fees.
“Wait for me to reply that when I get back to work on Tuesday, by then I would have statistics and I will tell you our position. For schools to hike fees, they need to seek permission first,” Ndlovu said.
Teacher unions yesterday declared that their members will not report for duty citing incapacitation.
Public Service minister Paul Mavima has since pleaded with teachers to be patient, saying their salaries cannot be reviewed each time schools open.
“We just changed the package for teachers… each time schools open. We are getting into the second quarter, and we need them to be patient and go through the negotiation process. If there is any need for a review, it will be determined during the negotiation process,” Mavima said last week.
Educators Union of Zimbabwe president Tafadzwa Munodawafa said workers, especially teachers, should take the initiative to make sure their dignity is restored.
“We celebrated Workers’ Day with miserable faces — facing misery in all aspects of our lives and a gloomy year. As teachers, we should rise up and reject slave wages. We should not wait for miracles that one day, the employer shall have mercy on us and just restore our salaries and dignity. It only needs us to take the initiative. We demand to have our salaries restored to the pre-2018 level of US$540. Surely, workers cannot breathe,” Munodawafa
Teachers and government have been involved in a protracted standoff with the former demanding a pre-October 2018 remuneration ranging from US$520 and US$540.