School heads face disciplinary action over fee hikes: Ministry

Source: School heads face disciplinary action over fee hikes: Ministry -Newsday Zimbabwe

Government has threatened to punish school heads if they increase tuition fees for the upcoming term without the approval of the Primary and Secondary Education ministry.

Several public and private schools have issued notices to increase tuition fees for the first term next year even in United States dollars.

Over the years, government threats against fee hikes have been largely ignored, leaving parents and guardians at the mercy of school authorities.

Some schools are known for turning  away students over non-payment of fees.

Primary and Secondary Education permanent secretary Moses Mhike, however, told NewsDay that the government will not “fold” its hands when school heads at public schools increase fees without approval.

“Our position is very clear, it’s a total no. The regulations are very clear. There should be a parents’ assembly where they vote on the matter and that information is submitted to the ministry through our structures,” said Mhike.

“That fee must be approved by the permanent secretary of the ministry and once that approval is done it will be communicated to the parents.”

Mhike urged parents not to pay fees that have not been approved by the ministry.

“We don’t tolerate the unilateral increase of fees and no one should pay fees that have not been approved,” he said.

“We have been getting so many complaints from the parents and we have investigated the majority of these issues. Soon we will be issuing a Press statement where we will be saying no to school authorities that continue to charge school fees without the approval of the ministry.”

He said school heads, who increased fees without approval, would be charged with misconduct.

“The punitive measures are very clear as per our Acts, when it comes to public schools, it is misconduct. We will take action against all heads who allow this to happen,” he said

“It is also a chargeable offence that can result in imprisonment. As a ministry we don’t want to go there because the statutes are very clear and easy to follow.”

Mhike said the ministry had approved applications from at least 200 schools to increase fees.

“If you are not bringing your own application, what then does that mean?” he queried.

“It means there is something sinister that the ministry should not come across.”

He also castigated the exclusive selling of school uniforms and stationery at schools. A number of schools now force parents to buy uniforms and stationery in-house.

“The parents should have the option to buy the school uniforms from wherever as long as the brand is the one accepted by the school,” he said.

“We are saying no to a directive by school heads that is going to exclusively order parents to buy uniforms from the school, why do we want to rip off the parents in that fashion?.”

Last year, several boarding schools across the country came under fire after they were accused of cashing in on the sale of uniforms with some schools charging between US$400 and US$600 for a set.

Schools open on January 9, 2024.