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Government condemns school fees hikes and foreign currency payments


By  Anyway Yotamu.

Acting Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Hon Kirsty Coventry said schools should not increase fees by over 20 percent without Government approval, and charging in foreign currency is illegal as it is also an offence for schools to sell uniforms or force parents to buy them at selected stores.

Minister Coventry said this in Parliament on Thursday 19 December 2019 during her presentation on ministerial statement on various issues affecting the education sector across the country.

She presented this following a request by proportional legislator, Hon  Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, for the ministry to comment on issues ranging from fees and Grade Seven results, among others. Hon Misihairabwi-Mushonga is the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education.

Minister Coventry said fees increases should be agreed upon by parents during properly-constituted meetings.

“The fees are increased by parents at properly-constituted meetings and schools should adhere to decisions and recommendations of the School Development Committees (SDC) ,” she said.

“Our fees  should comply with Statutory Instrument 121 of 2019 where pricing is done in local currency and this does not give room for rating fees according to the prevailing bank rate since all fees are in local currency.

“Application for fees increases should not be above 20 percent increase and any other increases should be approved by the head of the ministry as directed in the Secretaries Circular Minute Number 6 of 2018.”

Some   mission and Government boarding schools has already increased fees without approval, especially for pupils starting Form One next year, with some charging between $11 000 and $17 000.

Some private schools are charging their fees in foreign currency or in local currency at the prevailing inter-bank rate.

This had seen some schools charging fees as high as $122 000.

Minister Coventry said it is illegal for schools to sell uniforms or compel parents to buy from selected stores.

“A circular was issued that outlawed the purchase of uniforms only at school level. Parents can buy uniforms anywhere to the best of their advantage and can even make them for themselves.

“Schools are not allowed to coerce parents to purchase uniforms at their schools,” Minister Coventry added.

Most schools have resorted to selling uniforms, usually at exorbitant prices as part of fundraising initiatives, although parents argue that some administrators use this to enrich themselves.

Minister Coventry attributed the decline in the Grade Seven pass rate this year to a combination of factors, including a shortage of qualified teachers.

The pass rate declined from 52.08 last year to 46.9 percent.

She said there were 15 000 teacher vacancies with the Government only approving the recruitment of 5 000 next year.

The acting minister said other factors which contributed to the drop included a shortage of learning materials and space with some pupils, especially in resettlement areas using tobacco barns as classrooms and it’s illegal to hold results for students with outstanding fees.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende