MOST schools have heeded government’s warning not to increase fees and levies as the second term opens today although parents yesterday said they had struggled to raise the money due to the liquidity challenges being experienced in the country.
Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora last week announced that school fees for this year at government and independent institutions remained frozen while voluntary levies or other unauthorised charges would not be allowed.
Parents and guardians who spoke to NewsDay yesterday while seeing off their children to boarding schools around the country said they were happy that they were not digging deeper into their pockets this term.
They also said uniform and stationery prices were affordable although access to cash was the major challenge.
Francis Wenjera, whose daughter is a student at St Luke’s Jemedza High School in Sadza, Mashonaland East, said fees were pegged at $580, which was the same as last term.
“The school fees are still the same. Of course, they have been difficulties in raising the cash such that one would have wanted to negotiate with the school to pay in tranches, but the schools are also facing challenges because they have to buy food and other necessities,” Wenjera said as he accompanied his daughter to Wedza.
Nancy Marowa said the fees at Daramombe Mission, also in Mashonaland East, had remained at $450 but she had had challenges with raising the money and had agreed with the school to make a down payment of $225 on the understanding that she would settle the balance at a later date.
“Accessing finances has been a challenge, but my employer has been struggling to pay us. Our salaries have been coming in bits and pieces, but otherwise I think the fees are fair,” she said.
Other parents and guardians were still making final preparations with retail outlets a hive of activity as preparations for the new term were underway, purchasing uniforms, groceries and stationery.
Some parents however indicated that they had significantly trimmed groceries as they tried to spread out the little resources they had, with some having made arrangements with schools to pay fees in monthly instalments.
Dokora urged schools to use traditional and civil courts within their localities to recover fees and levies owed to them by parents and guardians.
Meanwhile, Takavafira Zhou, president of the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, said morale was low among teachers as schools open today as they were denied a chance to make extra income when the government banned holiday lessons and scrapped teacher incentives.
“The majority of Zimbabweans and teachers in particular have no money to pay school fees,” Zhou said.
Teachers were denied an opportunity to assist students and get a few dollars over the holidays as government outlawed extra lessons.
“Schools are opening for the second term amid political paralysis, the worsening liquidity crisis, erosion of teachers’ salaries, unilateral decision-making by Education ministry officials on a number of issues that need logical disputation and engagement with teacher unions, and the threat of labour law reform that moves the clock backwards to the colonial Master and Servant Act.”
Zhou indicated that the proposed labour law reforms posed the greatest threat to the welfare of teachers.
The move has been widely condemned, with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions indicating that it would resort to street protests to force the government to withdraw the proposed reforms.