Thursday, 19 December 2019

CHARGING FEES IN FOREX IS ILLEGAL : COVENTRY WARNS SCHOOLS


Schools should not increase fees by more than 20 percent without Government approval while charging in foreign currency is illegal.

It also an offence for schools to sell uniforms or force parents to buy them at selected stores, acting Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Kirsty Coventry has said.

Minister Coventry said this in the National Assembly yesterday while presenting a ministerial statement on various issues affecting the education sector.

The statement was issued following a requests by legislator, Mrs Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga for the ministry to comment on issues ranging from fees and this year’s Grade Seven results among others.

Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga is the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education.

Minister Coventry said any fees increase should be agreed upon by parents during properly constituted meetings.

“The fees are increased by parents at properly constituted meetings and schools should adhere to decisions and recommendations of the SDCs (School Development Committees),” she said. 

“Our fees should comply with Statutory Instrument 121 of 2019 where pricing is done in local currency and this does not give room for rating fees according to prevailing bank rate since all fees are in local currency. Application for fees increases should be below 20 percent increase and any other increases should be approved by the head of the ministry as directed in the Secretaries Circular Minute Number 6 of 2018.”

Some Government and mission boarding schools have already hiked fees without approval, especially for pupils starting Form One next year with some charging between $10 000 and $12 000.

Some elite private schools are charging their fees in foreign currency or in local currency at the prevailing inter-bank rate. This had seen fees some schools charging fees as high as $90 000.

Minister Coventry also said it was illegal for schools to sell uniforms or compel parents to buy at selected stores.

“A circular was issued that outlawed the purchase of uniforms only at school level. Parents can buy uniforms anywhere to the best of their advantage and can even make them for themselves.

“School authorities are not allowed to coerce parents to buy uniforms at their schools,” Minister Coventry said. 

Most schools have resorted to selling uniforms, usually at exorbitant prices as part of fund raising initiatives although parents argue that some administrators use this to enrich themselves.

Minister Coventry said the decline in the Grade Seven pass rate this year was due to a combination of factors including a shortage of qualified teachers. The pass rate declined from 52,08 last year to 46,9 percent.

She said there were 15 000 teacher vacancies with Government only approving the recruitment of 5 000 next year.

The acting minister said the other factors, which contributed to the drop, included a shortage of learning material and space with some pupils especially in resettlement areas using tobacco barns as classrooms.

Minister Coventry also said it was illegal for schools to withhold results of pupils with outstanding fees and levies.

After Minister Coventry issued her statement, the Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda directed that the ministry issues a public statement on the issues.

“The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is going to issue a press statement giving direction to schools and also direct the schools’ inspectors to go to schools and ensure Government policies are adhered to,” said Advocate Mudenda. Herald

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