BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
AUTHORITIES at the Catholic-run St Martins Primary School in Harare are being investigated by the Primary and Secondary Education ministry following reports that pupils whose parents objected to an unsanctioned fee hike were being victimised.
The school recently held its annual general meeting (AGM) virtually, where authorities allegedly imposed an almost 100% fee hike.
This saw fees being raised from US$270 to US$530 on the basis that staffers at the school were demanding salary increments.
The parents, however, objected to the fee hike, arguing that there was no justification for the “excessive” increase.
They did not pay the top-up, arguing that the less than 200 parents attended the AGM did not constitute a quorum.
There are reports that authorities are barring children who have not paid top up fees from attending lessons. School authorities also threatened to expel pupils whose parents failed to pay up.
Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro confirmed the development.
“We received the complaints by parents at St Martins Primary School over various allegations to do with maladministration and investigations on the matter are underway,“ Ndoro said.
“We have received several similar complaints from other schools throughout the country.
“We urge school authorities to adhere to guidelines set by the ministry to avoid such conflicts which sometimes are disrupting learning in schools.”
Leaked WatsApp of the online meeting indicated that school authorities blocked some parents from contributing their views, resulting in several of them exiting the platform.
“We have the board chair ignoring requests of the parents, muting everyone,” a parent posted during the meeting.
“Are we stakeholders at this school? Please start taking us seriously. Mr Headmaster, you want a 20% increase in salaries from the very parents you are adopting such a condescending attitude, what a shame.”
Parents also accused the school authorities of refusing to accept fees at the interbank rate, saying they were using the parallel rate of US$1:200.
“Grade Seven pupils, who had not paid up their fees, were barred from sitting for mock examinations yesterday (last week),” a parent, who requested anonymity, said.
“Those in lower grades, who were not paid up, were separated from others and did not attend lessons.
“The authorities threatened pupils in Grades One and Two that they will not proceed to the next level if their parents refused to pay up. We have made a report at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and the Primary and Secondary Education ministry.”
Efforts to get a comment from St Martins Primary School head Tinashe Gwese were fruitless.