1 December 2012

Tanzania: Why Private Schools Overcharge Fees

LACK of a clear policy on fee structure for private schools has been blamed for the ever-rising education costs that parents have to meet.

As a result, individual schools are now at liberty to raise their fees, albeit haphazardly.

A number of schools were even reluctant to avail their respective fee structures to our reporter during the two-week survey conducted by the 'Daily News' in Dar es Salaam.

However, some sources told this reporter that there was an increase of school fees by at least 10 and 50 per cent annually. Fees currently range between 1.2m/- and 6m/-.

Some of the schools that were contacted and agreed to share information include Aga Khan Schools (1,146,900/- for O Level and 1,911,000/- for A Level education) Almuntazir Secondary School (2m/- for O Level and 3.5m/- for A Level), Alharamain Secondary School (560,000/- for O Level and 660,000/- for A Level, Bakwata Secondary School (same as Al-Haramain), Feza Secondary charges (6m/- for A Level and O Level and Shree Hindu Mandal (1,650,000/- for A Level and O Level).

The Ministry for Education and Vocational Training two seculars on fees structure were issued in 1998 and later reviewed in 2002. The 1998 fees structure was implemented in 1999 which required private schools to charge 105,000/- for day schools and 130,000/- for boarding schools.

The review in 2002 raised the fees to 380,000/- for boarding schools and 150,000/- for private schools. Many school heads have said that since three years ago the ministry has promised to release a new fees structure which has not happened yet. Several ordinary citizens who prefer quality education said that some fees were not affordable by many and a burden to most of the people who paid.

"I live in debt throughout the year because of borrowing from banks to pay for my children's school fees," said Ms Jeniffer Komba, a resident of Kariakoo. When this reporter sampled 10 schools based in the city centre and its outskirts, it was established that four schools (name withheld) did not have any written information (prospectus) ready for their clients.

In two schools, one a Catholic Church-owned and the other a private-owned one, the administrators said that those who want to join the school are charged fees on the basis of the current costs that the schools incur. "It is not possible to print the fee structure because every day the cost of living is rising; so we issue a quotation based on a new application," said one of the administrators.

In these schools, it was impossible to retrieve any information on the previous school fees charged to the parents. At a Catholic Church-run school located at Bahari Beach area, the receptionist said that the school did not keep any printed fee structure because parents have to contact the finance department if they want their children to 'join for advice.'

Therefore, she added, if a parent secures admission, the school fees are calculated on the spot. At Shaaban Robert Secondary School, the spokesperson said that school fee analysis details are decided by the board and wanted the reporter to contact the board chairman.

Efforts to contact the chairman proved futile. However, parents have criticized the ministry for ignoring their plight and leaving the education system at the chagrin of greedy individuals who exploit them.

"Imagine some schools can use any unrealistic composite analysis which cannot be justified to unfairly reap from parents. These schools hike fees in the name of services that often are mediocre," said Mohamed Mohamed of Kariakoo.

Another woman who works for the informal sector, Ms Jane James, said that some schools were feeding students with normal diet such as Ugali and beans yet charged them dearly. "In some schools, there are no libraries or books while the laboratories are not functioning," she said without mentioning names.

An educationist who has worked for all four governments said that in 1998 there was a policy that pegged school fees for private and government schools. According to the ministry's records, a fee structure policy was issued in 1998 and reviewed in 2002.

Since then, there was no policy review for school fees, which left the schools to decide whatever they want to charge. An official in the ministry said that she only remembers that one school had written of late to ask the authorities to endorse the school's fee structure that was reviewed.

"I don't think of any other time when we have seen any application asking the ministry to endorse their fees adjustment," she said. Among the schools that were sampled (at least those which showed transparency in sharing information) include The Aga Khan Schools, Feza Schools, Bakwata Secondary School, Al-Haramain Secondary School and Shree Hindu Mandal Secondary School. These schools issued the fee structure on the spot when this reporter asked for it, complete with an analysis to justify the charges.

At the Aga Khan, known for its sophistication, this reporter collected a printed document while at Feza Schools, authorities issued a quotation without hesitation. At the Bakwata School, staff scribbled on a piece of paper a quotation ready for next year, complete with the school's seal.

At the private school (name withheld) located in Mbezi along Bagamoyo Road, an administrator became emotional when this reporter wanted to know why the school cannot give the media a quotation on the school fees. "We need time to prepare the quotation," she argued.

Most parents who talked to this paper have advised the ministry to investigate private schools which are not ready to disclose their fee structure and give an analysis to justify such charges. They are of the opinion that such documents should be available to inspectors, parents, students and even the media for transparency's sake.

"We suspect that there is something fishy going on," said a parent of a child at one of the private schools that declined information to the 'Sunday News.' They also blamed some inspectors in the ministry, whom they accused of laxity, hence contributing to the arrogance shown by authorities in the 'reluctant' schools.

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