Tinomuda Chakanyuka, Sunday News Senior Reporter
THE Government has said the majority of schools in the country are less likely to increase school fees for the first term which begins next week as it has not received any application for the 2017 fees review yet.
Schools will open for the first term on 10 January.
Stakeholders in the education sector have also said there was no justification in schools increasing fees as it would only serve to burden the parents.
According to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, no school had applied for authority to increase school fees, as at 30 December 2016.
The Government policy requires all schools to first seek authority from the parent ministry before making any school fee adjustments.
Normally schools announce fees increases at the close of each term for returning pupils, while new pupils get the fees structures upon being enrolled.
With no school yet to apply for permission to increase school fees, nine days before schools open, observers said it was an indication that there may be no school fees increases for the first term of 2017. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Dr Sylvia Utete-Masango confirmed that her office was yet to receive any application for fee increases from schools.
She, however, said it might still be premature to rule out fees increases, as some schools may still apply for authority to increase fees after the festive period.
“We haven’t received any applications yet. It may still be premature so say schools won’t apply. Maybe after the holidays the applications will start coming through.
“Some schools may have projects that they are pursuing and may thus need to adjust fees to fund those projects. The procedure is that they must give justification for the proposed increase and if we are satisfied we approve,” she said.
Zimbabwe Schools Development Associations/Committees secretary General Mr Everisto Jongwe said the fact that no application for fees increases had been made to the ministry yet was indication that there might be no fees increases going into the first term of the year. He said while schools were not coping and needed more funds, the prevailing economic conditions did not warrant any fees adjustment as it would further burden parents.
“I agree with the observation that there may not be any fees increases this coming term.
“It’s highly likely that schools will not increase fees, not because the school are coping themselves but the state of our economy does not warrant any fees increase,” he said.
Added Mr Jongwe, “Parents have not had any increases on their income and if anything their incomes are shrinking, thus no parent is likely to endorse any fees increase”.
Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Mr Sifiso Ndlovu said there should not be any fees increases in the coming term.
He, however, said if there were any schools that intend to increase fees, they should do so procedurally.
“Economic indications in 2016 are that people are finding it difficult to survive. So I believe that every aspect of the economy should be kept where it was, price wise, to avoid an upsurge of prices.
There is no justification to increase fees and I support a price freezes as the most tenable situation,” he said.
Mr Ndlovu added, “Schools should be sanctioned by Government first before they increase fees.
“There shouldn’t be anyone who increases fees against the law and we encourage our teachers to abide by the laws,” he said.
The Government has been on record warning schools against unilaterally increasing fees without being sanctioned by authorities.
It has also become a tradition that hordes of pupils lose valuable learning time at the start of each term after being turned away for non-payment of school fees, particularly those in private and boarding institutions.
The Government has also warned schools against turning away pupils for non-payment of school fees.