The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday News Reporter
SCHOOLS that are pegging examination fees exclusively in foreign currency are flouting regulations set by the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec), as parents and guardians are allowed to make payment using any of the currencies in use in the country.
Following the announcement that examination fees for this year will be pegged in USD, payable in the local currency equivalent, some schools around the country have been reportedly demanding payment exclusively in hard currency. According to Zimsec, Grade Seven examination fees will be US$30 for all the subjects, Ordinary Level fees were pegged at US$11 per subject for candidates in public, local authorities-run, and non-profit making schools with the Government paying a subsidy of US$24 while those in private schools and colleges fork out US$24 per subject. Advanced Level candidates in public and local authority-run schools will pay US$22 per subject with the Government contributing US$26 in subsidy. Private schools and college candidates shall pay US$48 per subject.
In an interview with Sunday News, Zimsec spokesperson Ms Nicky Dlamini said they had received complaints from parents around the country, as some schools had notified them that they would be accepting USD payments only. Payment of examination fees is supposed to take place between 22 and 29 July.
“Schools cannot force parents to pay in foreign currency. That is not allowed and therefore against the regulations. We have received reports of schools doing this and they are being reprimanded accordingly. This is where parents have to step up and play a watchdog role so they can alert us when schools are flouting the rules and asking them to pay in forex,” she said.
Ms Dlamini said Zimsec had given the go ahead for schools to receive payments in foreign currency for schools that applied, particularly those around border towns who requested for a waiver allowing them to deal in forex.
“After we made the announcement that parents can pay the examination fees at the interbank rate equivalent of the quoted USD amounts, we received a letter from schools in areas like Beitbridge and Lower Chiredzi asking for a waiver that would allow them to pay in hard currency. This is because parents in those areas, use foreign currency on a daily basis and it would be a bit hard for them to get access to RTGS to pay the fees. So, we have now resolved to allow parents to pay in whatever currency they have access to at that particular time. If they have rands or RTGS they can pay the equivalent of the fee that was gazetted,” she said.
Ms Dlamini said following the new announcement that had officialised the use of foreign currency, schools that collect the money in foreign currency must also remit the same to the examination body.
“So, schools can accept all currencies and we made this regulation in light of the monetary policy resolutions that have been announced by Government recently. However, it is important for schools to also note that, when they receive foreign currency, whether it’s USD or rands, they also have to receipt and also remit to Zimsec in that currency. We will not allow a situation where schools accept foreign currency from parents but want to remit RTGS. Schools that attempt to do that will be reprimanded and punished,” she said.
Ms Dlamini said that the rate used for registration fees will be announced on 22 July, as a cushion against inflation.
“Since the interbank rate changes weekly, we will announce the rate that will be used. It will be a blanket rate that will apply to all schools. From 22 July to 29 July, we will hold that rate and it will not change so as to allow all parents to pay in an equitable way,” she said.
Ms Dlamini said Zimsec had also received reports of schools setting their own deadlines for payment of exam fees. This, she said, was illegal and against Zimsec regulations.
“We have also heard of schools setting their own deadlines for the payment of fees and we want to make it clear that it is not allowed. Some schools might perhaps say they want to end payments on 25 or 26 July for administration purposes so they remit to Zimsec and that may be understandable, but they have a month to do that. It is also important to note that registration is not the same as payment. Schools have been allowed to register pupils while they wait for payment which is forthcoming. Registration serves as a way of helping schools determine just how many pupils, they can expect payment from,” she said.