Outrage as school increases fees barely a month into new term

by | Apr 26, 2021 | Local News | 0 comments

Staff Reporter

Rusununguko High School in Melfort has come under fire from parents who are complaining against the wanton fees increases at the institution.
The school, which is one of the most sought after public schools is favoured by parents for its good results.

However, parents of late have been accusing the administration of parasitic behaviour.
“We paid ZWL$25,520 plus US$20 donation when schools opened on March 22 2021, but exactly a month on, April 24 2021, school authorities are asking for a school fees top-up of ZW$19,400 and an additional US$20,” said one disgruntled parent who pleaded not to have their name published to protect their child.

“School authorities have to be considerate as these increases are beyond the reach of many parents,” continued the parent.
Many parents at Rusununguko High School in Melfort who feel short-changed by the school’s authorities who seem to be in the habit of increasing school fees every new term.

At a time when Zimbabwe has recorded the lowest inflation rate in three years, the school is effecting a 130 percent fee increase to ZWL$44,920, all within a space of one month.
Parents had agreed in principle to pay a US$20 to the school as a donation to cushion teachers, yet this time around an extra US$20 has been added, purportedly for diesel.

Assuming that each class has 50 students, as is the case with Form two stream of 2021 at this school, it means that this stream alone will raise US$5000 for the five classes, which translates to 3,787 litres of diesel at US$1.32 per litre.
When all classes have paid US$20 contribution pre child the school makes a whooping 22 000 litres of diesel per term.

The amount of diesel appears high for a school with a single bus, two trucks and one standby generator.
Parents are complaining that a budget breakdown has not been provided to unpack how the top up came about.

When schools opened on March 22 2021, there was a top-up of ZWL$2000 for school authorities levy as the school transitioned from being government run, into the hands of ZIMFEP, a trust organisation.
Statutory Instruments 87 of 1992 and 379 of 1998 which were harmonised in 2013 to spell out some of the objectives of the SDC as to: Provide and assist in the operation and development of the schools; Advance the moral cultural, physical and intellectual welfare of pupils at the school. These were brought together to cater for both public and private schools.

The school headmaster, Mr Vheremu contends that the school currently doesn’t have a legally constituted School Development Committee (SDC).
The current committee ran its full term and, as he put it, Covid-19 disturbed constitution of a new SDC to make such binding decisions.

Without a SDC, the school cannot raise fees, according to the law.
The school has equally not held a mandatory AGM and the 2020 financial audit remains to be done and reviewed by parents` representatives.
An arbitrary unit was constituted to come up with the new fees.

Attention Form teachers: Select five very supportive parents from your class and bring their names and WhatsApp contacts to the Deputy Headmaster today without fail. They are required to form a sample of parents to review this term’s fees here at the school’s sports fields this Saturday.

Please treat it with the urgency it requires. At the same time exam classes subject teachers do come up with proposals for vacation fees to be debated on the same day before we apply for it. Thank you,”
This was a message from the Headmaster to the teachers which was copied to a parents’ WhatsApp group on April 20 2021 for a meeting scheduled for the 24th of April 2021.

It, therefore, stands to be proven if this is an acceptable manner of constituting a parents representative body or SDC to make binding decisions on behalf of all parents.

Director of Communications in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Ministry Mr Taungana Ndoro, on March 7 2021, indicated that each school will have to present its budget to the ministry for approval with proof of consent from at least 50 percent of the parents for an assessment of its validity.

Mr Ndoro said Government will not have an umbrella structure on school fees but will assess the proposal on a case-by-case basis.

“We have not given schools a fixed fees structure. We are going to deal with the school fees increment on a case-by-case basis. We have said that schools will make their proposals for school fees increments and submit them to the ministry. This depends on their budget and proposed developmental projects to be undertaken by the school.

“So there are some fees structures that can be approved at provincial level while other proposed fees would have to be approved at the ministry head-office. We also want to ensure that the fees are realistic and within reach. We also want to avoid exorbitant fees structures so parents will also have to consent to the proposed school fees,” said Mr Ndoro.

While the procedure stipulates that all fee hike proposals be forwarded to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education head office for approval, the school Headmaster is already demanding that parents pay the top-up by May 15 2021.
Questions have been asked of the school administration`s commitment to fee increases which appear to be untoward.