Saturday, 9 May 2020

GOVT : ONLINE LESSONS FEES ILLEGAL


SCHOOLS must not charge extra money for conducting online lessons or increase their fees for Term Two without seeking approval from the Government and those that will ignore the directive risk being de-registered, a Cabinet Minister has warned.

Addressing a media briefing in Bulawayo yesterday, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Ambassador Cain Mathema said schools that have demanded that parents pay for online fees and pay for Term Two fees were extortionist and would be de-registered.

The warning comes at a time when most private schools have gone on an overdrive demanding that parents either pay for online lessons or start paying fees for Term Two, which have been reviewed upwards from the first term. Minister Mathema said while his ministry appreciates that online and distance learning have become necessary owing to the closure of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic, there were concerns over how schools were using the initiative to “extort” money from parents.

“What the nation has experienced recently where such school initiatives appear to be construed as the start of the second term, with schools giving deadlines to parents and guardians for the payment of unapproved fees or levies is unacceptable.

“Some high fees and levies that have been brought to my attention, including foreign currency, appear extortionist and we should not have this in education. Section 17 of the Education Act provides for cancellation of registration by the Secretary. This is not an issue that was ever considered necessary given the cooperation that existed in the education sector,” he said.

The Education Act [25:04] applies to all Government and non-Government schools and correspondence and independent colleges. Minister Mathema said some private schools have broken the trust the Government had in them.

“However, the spirit of some of the non-State players in the sector is no longer clear. Some non-Government schools charge fees and levies that are initially affordable to many but in due course the fees and levies are hiked so much that the ministry struggles to cope with the relocation of some learners to new schools. I cannot emphasise enough the need for all schools to abide by the law and culture of consultation. We have a responsibility to be fair to our learners, parents and guardians. No school should attract our attention by doing wrong things,” he said.

Private schools in the city such as Petra and Whitestone gave parents up to 15 May to make partial school fees payments while they wait for Government approval. Deposits were ranging between $10 000 and $27 000. Parents with children at Masiyephambili said they had been told that Term Two fees were due last Friday, raising the ire of most parents.
“While the ministry is developing online and distance learning programmes, school initiatives are welcome. However, such initiatives by schools must receive the necessary approvals from the ministry before any implementation takes place,” he said.

Minister Mathema said any fee that is charged for online or distance learning programmes must receive approval first before schools can implement them.

“I would want us all to work as a team for the good of our children. His Excellency, the President has introduced a culture of dialogue, let us all please live by it because we belong, we all have one country, Zimbabwe. We therefore have no alternative but to dialogue with each other,” he stressed.

However, some private schools have defended their stance saying they were demanding school fees so as to meet salaries for teachers and support staff, and also to take care of other running costs in SCHOOLS must not charge extra money for conducting online lessons or increase their fees for Term Two without seeking approval from the Government and those that will ignore the directive risk being de-registered, a Cabinet Minister has warned.

Addressing a media briefing in Bulawayo yesterday, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Ambassador Cain Mathema said schools that have demanded that parents pay for online fees and pay for Term Two fees were extortionist and would be de-registered.

The warning comes at a time when most private schools have gone on an overdrive demanding that parents either pay for online lessons or start paying fees for Term Two, which have been reviewed upwards from the first term. Minister Mathema said while his ministry appreciates that online and distance learning have become necessary owing to the closure of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic, there were concerns over how schools were using the initiative to “extort” money from parents.

“What the nation has experienced recently where such school initiatives appear to be construed as the start of the second term, with schools giving deadlines to parents and guardians for the payment of unapproved fees or levies is unacceptable. 

“Some high fees and levies that have been brought to my attention, including foreign currency, appear extortionist and we should not have this in education. Section 17 of the Education Act provides for cancellation of registration by the Secretary. This is not an issue that was ever considered necessary given the cooperation that existed in the education sector,” he said.

The Education Act [25:04] applies to all Government and non-Government schools and correspondence and independent colleges. Minister Mathema said some private schools have broken the trust the Government had in them.

“However, the spirit of some of the non-State players in the sector is no longer clear. Some non-Government schools charge fees and levies that are initially affordable to many but in due course the fees and levies are hiked so much that the ministry struggles to cope with the relocation of some learners to new schools. I cannot emphasise enough the need for all schools to abide by the law and culture of consultation. We have a responsibility to be fair to our learners, parents and guardians. No school should attract our attention by doing wrong things,” he said.

Private schools in the city such as Petra and Whitestone gave parents up to 15 May to make partial school fees payments while they wait for Government approval. Deposits were ranging between $10 000 and $27 000. Parents with children at Masiyephambili said they had been told that Term Two fees were due last Friday, raising the ire of most parents. 

“While the ministry is developing online and distance learning programmes, school initiatives are welcome. However, such initiatives by schools must receive the necessary approvals from the ministry before any implementation takes place,” he said.

Minister Mathema said any fee that is charged for online or distance learning programmes must receive approval first before schools can implement them.

“I would want us all to work as a team for the good of our children. His Excellency, the President has introduced a culture of dialogue, let us all please live by it because we belong, we all have one country, Zimbabwe. We therefore have no alternative but to dialogue with each other,” he stressed.

However, some private schools have defended their stance saying they were demanding school fees so as to meet salaries for teachers and support staff, and also to take care of other running costs in school maintenance. Sunday News

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