Parents make sacrifices to educate children

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Sending children to school has become a monumental sacrifice —with school fees, levies, uniforms and other educational requirements asking for large amounts of money — which parents have to contend with for their children’s sake.

At the beginning of every year, it is almost a predictable cycle that school fees are hiked, and parents are required to dig deep into their pockets.

Despite the socio-economic hardships afflicting many ordinary people, most parents who spoke to NewsDay said they were prepared to make sacrifices that would secure their children’s future.

Educating one’s children has become one of the biggest investments in the modern age.
Before schools opened on January 10, parents raised concern over the increase in the prices of school uniforms, saying January was traditionally a difficult month as the festive season would have bitten off a huge chunk of their December earnings.

Schools that increased fees include Moleli High School (from $350 to $512), Nyadire High School ($300 to $400), Howard ($400 to $530), St Francis of Assisi ($270 to $400), St Albert’s High School ($334 to $467), Bradley ($432 to $493), Hartzell ($380 to $420) and Chipindura High School ($476 to $540). These fees exclude levies.

One parent, Francis Chikama, who has two children in high school, said his salary was not enough to cover his children’s fees, so he had to “run other errands” to raise adequate money to cover the fees.

“Apart from the eight to five job, there are errands I run on the side, other income-generating projects. It’s important nowadays to have several financial streams to cushion you against financial difficulties,” he said.

“As a parent, you have no choice but to do these kinds of things for the sake of your children.”
Another parent, Arleta Makuyana, said she used her cross-border trade activities to raise money to augment her husband’s income in order to cover their three children’s fees.

She said the joint efforts she had made with her husband enabled them to keep their children in school despite continuously skyrocketing fees.

Local examinations board, Zimsec, has marginally increased public examination fees for this year, with Ordinary Level exam fees going up by $1 to $11 and Advanced Level fees from $20 to $22 per subject.

Other parents have decided to move their children from private to government schools whose fees are more affordable.

“I had one child who was in a private high school, but I was forced by circumstances to transfer him to a more affordable to school,” said Cosmas Chirunga. “I would have wanted my child to be at one of the best schools, but at the end of the day, it is the cost that determines.”

A number of other parents, out of desperation, have taken advantage of mushrooming loan facilities to borrow money to settle fees, hoping that things would ease out as the year progresses. A majority of the loan sharks invited people to sign up for loans so that they could “cure” the “January Disease”.

Last month, the Ministry of Education said tuition fees at government schools would this year remain unchanged. Primary schools in low-density urban areas charge $10 and $150 for locals and foreigners respectively.

High-density primary schools will be charging $5 for local students while their foreign counterparts will pay $150.

Some private schools, however, are asking for as much as $2 380 this first term, up from $1 950 last year with others asking for as much as $3 200.

Education, Sport, Arts and Culture minister David Coltart said fee increases were unavoidable because the education sector had been underfunded.

All schools raising fees must first call a meeting with parents, present a budget to them, gain approval and then send the budget, the list of parents at the meeting, and minutes of the meeting, which include the votes, to the ministry for approval or modification.

Education, Sport, Arts and Culture deputy minister Lazarus Dokora yesterday said it was illegal for schools to increase fees in anticipation of government approval.

“Some schools are justified to increase fees, but these increases should be tied to what would have been agreed between SDCs, school authorities and parents.

No approval will be contemplated without proof that there was an agreement meeting between parents and school administrators.”