Fees freeze riles school heads

The government directive to freeze all school levies and fees this year will cripple the day-to-day operations of schools, say headmasters.

Last year, the education ministry was budgeted $1,2 billion but received only $865,669.
Last year, the education ministry was budgeted $1,2 billion but received only $865,669.

Addressing government provincial education directors and district education directors in Harare last week, the Permanent Secretary in the Primary and Secondary Education ministry, Constance Chigwamba, revealed that the government had put a moratorium on any school levy and fees increase this year.

“Any head of school that, whether in cahoots with School Development Committee, increases fees and levies is violating the provisions of Statutory Instrument 1 of 2000 coming from the employer, the Civil Service Commission … will be dealt with as per the provisions for disciplinary procedures,” warned Chigwamba.

But school heads who spoke to The Zimbabwean this week, strictly on condition of anonymity, said the government’s move was certain to backfire. “Parents had agreed to pay $95 for both school fees and levies this year, but because of this directive we have been forced to revert back to the $45 which the parents were paying last term.

“We had arrived at this figure because a lot of our service providers this year hiked their goods and services in anticipation of the heft civil servants salaries which the government had been promising since last year,” said a headmaster of a local Methodist church school, who declined to be named.

“We have got obligations such as electricity, water, salaries and other expenses to pay from the levies.”

The former minister of Education Sports and Culture in the now defunct inclusive government, David Coltart, said the government move would undermine the education system.

“Unless government steps in to provide additional funding for the education sector any attempt to stifle parents’ desires to provide the best education possible for their children will undermine the entire system,” Coltart told The Zimbabwean.

A headmaster at a government school in central Bulawayo said his school last week also received a circular from the ministry scrapping teachers’ incentives. This development, he said had affected staff morale at the school.

“As I speak staff morale is at its lowest ebb at my school. Teachers were no longer engaging in industrial actions because they were being motivated by the incentives, by which parents were compensating for their meagre salaries. What pains most teachers is that the government is preventing willing parents from helping us – yet government itself cannot pay us adequately ,” he said.

Another headmaster said the schools’ plight had been worsened by the government failure to pay fees for pupils under its Basic Education Assistance Module, which has been mired in allegations of corruption and mis-management.

During the run up to the controversial July 31 elections, the government directed all local authorities to slash all outstanding debts for utilities. The move has adversely affected most local authorities, which can no longer afford to pay workers and other essentials such as the procurement of water purification chemicals among other services.

Repeated efforts to get a comment from Lazarus Dokora, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education were all in vain as his mobile phone was not reachable.

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