12 December 2012

Zimbabwe: No to Illegal Fees Hikes,Headmasters Told

GOVERNMENT has warned headmasters that they will be prosecuted for increasing school fees without approval as it emerged yesterday that some schools have already raised fees for the first term next year.

Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Lazarus Dokora said among 211 headmasters with pending cases at the courts, several were arrested for increasing school fees without approval.

He said headmasters and school development associations should operate within the framework of the Public Service Commission regulations.

According to school fees regulations set by Government, Deputy Minister Dokora said, a minimum of 20 percent of parents and guardians have to approve, at a special meeting, any proposed increase of fees and levies.

The schools would then seek approval from the Government with their applications accompanied by the minutes of such a meeting.

This comes in the wake of reports that most schools countrywide have unilaterally increased fees for the 2013 first term by between 15 and 20 percent.

Deputy Minister Dokora said the Government would continue to be tough against headmasters who increase fees without following proper procedures.

"We have now moved from issuing warnings and now we are taking action," he said.

"We have a lot of headmasters who have been caught on the wrong side of the law in the audits being carried out countrywide and some of their offences include these uncalled for fees hikes."

A number of schools applied to the Government for permission to raise fees, citing rising operational costs.

Some of the applications were turned down, while other schools are yet to get responses.

But in many cases, school authorities have proceeded to increase tuition fees and levies without a response from Government.

Deputy Minister Dokora said schools should apply for fee increases during the previous term, with responses coming between September and October for the first term.

"This is for parents to have enough time to adjust to the new fees structure in the event that it has been increased," he said.

"It is pointless to give a parent an invoice with increased fees in December when schools open the following month.

"All along, a majority of parents were approving the fees, but now if a fees meeting is attended and approved by 20 percent of the parents then it means the application for fees increase can go ahead to Government."

Deputy Minister Dokora said any school head increasing fees without approval would be risking their job.

"Charge what you are legally bound to charge and do not do this in anticipation of a positive response from Government if you have applied," Deputy Minister Dokora said.

"Fees charged should be accountable towards levies, tuition and identified projects. Anything outside that is unacceptable.

"The fact that a school is popular should also not be a license to charging outside the Government framework."

Deputy Minister Dokora blamed some parents for failing to attend meetings where school fees increases are discussed.

"Parents should learn to go and argue their cases at those meetings not to leave headmasters to take a leading role," he said.

Government recently introduced new fees regulations to ensure compliance with existing procedures in raising fees and levies in schools.

This came up after a lot of clashes between school heads and school development committees over control of finances and schools in general.

No approval of an increase would be contemplated without proof that there was an agreement at a meeting between parents and school administrators.

Some parents have appealed for Government intervention to ensure the margin of the increases is justified.

The parents said some of them could not afford the new fees as they have been struggling to pay the current fees.

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