Public schools have applied for an upward adjustment of tuition fees and financial assistance from the State.
Private schools resume classes tomorrow, while public schools open on September 28 under strict Covid-19 prevention guidelines to keep learners and staff safe.
In a letter addressed to the Secretary for Primary and Secondary Education, seen by The Sunday Mail, National Association of Secondary Heads (NASH) requested a subsidy from Government, saying fees collected from examination classes was inadequate to meet all costs especially the purchase of PPE.
“First term approved school budgets for 2020, which have been eroded by inflation, did not factor in WHO requirements and expectations to curb the pandemic in schools hence the need for financial support to schools. Alternatively, schools can be allowed to prepare and present a special levy for the pandemic, which approval should not be delayed,” read the letter.
The association requested to peg their fees in United States dollars or charge the equivalent at the prevailing auction system exchange rate.
“NASH recommends that schools be authorised to budget in US dollars on the grounds that suppliers are charging goods and services in foreign currency.
“This is now the norm in urban and rural areas,” it said.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Cain Mathema said he had not yet seen the application by the National Association of Secondary Heads requesting an upward adjustment of tuition fees.
He said Government had availed $600 000 for PPE and was confident that evaluations done prior to determination of schools reopening dates were suitable to ensure the resumption of classes occurs smoothly.
The PPE procured by the Government will be complemented by that already being produced by schools countrywide. This will see each pupil in public schools receiving PPE when schools reopen.
“I met the Minister of Finance (and Economic Development) today (Friday) and we have availed the funds to procure enough PPE for every pupil in preparation for schools opening,” said Minister Mathema.
“In addition, there are schools that are already producing the PPE. So, we are at an advanced stage in terms of preparation.”
He said the fact that the country conducted the June/July examinations with minimal glitches, was evidence enough that the November tests would be flawless.
“Zimbabwe managed to conduct successful examinations in June and we are taking the same leaf as we prepare for the November examinations,” said Minister Mathema.
“We will be drilling boreholes in schools so that there is adequate sanitation.”
He said those seeking to peg fees in United States dollars would have to explain.
“Schools that are proposing US dollar school fees payment or its equivalent in local currency should explain the materials that they want to purchase using US dollars. I am ready to listen to advice and concerns and the school associations really need to explain their proposals,” he said.
Schools argue that even with the latest intervention by Government, there are other essential services and goods needed for the functioning of the learning institutions.
“Government subsidy to schools is required as fees collected from Forms Fours and Sixes only would be grossly inadequate to meet all school costs which include water, electricity, salaries of SDA or SDC workers, communication systems, fuel, vehicle insurance policies, and other essential services. Schools are already in the red and staring at huge debts hence need for a bail out,” NASH said.
Meanwhile, private schools, which open tomorrow, have their own set of problems as all pupils and teachers are expected to have undergone mandatory Covid-19 testing. Private Schools Association of Zimbabwe secretary-general, Ms Loice Magweba, said pupils at most boarding schools will have minimal physical contact with the outside community as a requisite measure.
“All teaching and ancillary staff as well students at boarding schools should be tested,” she said.
“The testing, however, for now is being done for boarding schools and we had requested for PCR testing to be done. These boarding schools will be treated like quarantine centres with minimal contact from the outside community.
“We have also instructed the schools that they be prepared, vigilant and practice World Health Organisation health guidelines and so far we are happy with what we see on the ground.”
Ms Magweba said boarding school facilities will also have isolation centres and response plans which meet some of the requirements by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
“We are also going to get help from the Ministry of Health and Child Care on the way forward for our day scholars. Since they will be coming from their homes on a daily basis, testing alone might not be enough. So we are yet to get guidance on the way forward,” she said.
About 600 000 Grade Seven learners, 400 000 Ordinary Level and 50 000 Advanced Level pupils are expected to sit for this year’s Zimbabwe School Examinations Councils (Zimsec) exams.
Private schools have over 50 000 pupils sitting for the Cambridge examinations. On March 24 this year Government closed all schools, colleges and universities as a measure to curb the spread of Covid-19.