Wednesday, 3 June 2020

PRIVATE SCHOOLS DEMAND FEES FOR ONLINE LEARNING


PRIVATE schools have continued to defy Government by demanding fees before the re-opening of schools for the second term.

The schools are also excluding pupils whose parents have not paid fees from online learning platforms such as Google classroom, in violation of the Education Act.

It is unconstitutional for schools to discriminate against pupils who have not paid fees. Government has in the past reiterated that pupils must not be victimised through exclusion from classes, as fees payment is an arrangement between parents and schools’ administration.

Schools closed prematurely in March due to the threat of Covid-19 and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is working on measures for the safe re-opening of schools.

The Ministry has stated that re-opening will be staggered and examination classes would be prioritised.

Government last month ordered private schools to stop demanding increased fees payments as the Second Term had not started.

Primary and Secondary Education Minister Cain Mathema said the conduct by some private schools was tantamount to extortion, warning institutions that they risked being deregistered for violating the Education Act. 

Despite Government’s directives the private schools have continued demanding increased fees payments, in some instances, excluding pupils who have not made payment from online classes.

Private schools such Christian Brothers College (CBC), Girls College and Petra among other affluent schools are said to be still demanding deposit for school fees.

The schools are charging $17 000 and $30 000 as deposit fees for second term.

The institutions insist that the fees payment is to cater for maintenance of the schools as well as payment of salaries for staff.

In an interview, Ministry of Primary and Secondary and Secondary permanent secretary Mrs Tumisang Thabela said parents should report defiant schools so that the ministry takes action.

She said no school was autonomous from the parent ministry. 

“They (private schools) should accept that they are under the ministry why do they behave as if there is another ministry that they report to? No one would have it their way, we will get people into their lane. All we are saying is let’s talk together and let’s get things done the right way. Parents should report these schools to the ministry so that we investigate but the problem we are having with some of their reports is that they are just generalised,” said Mrs Thabela.

“We have told the private schools that if they want to teach online classes they must apply to the ministry, tell us what is happening and we evaluate their product. They are expected to indicate if there will be a cost and how much needs to be charged. If we agree on their proposal, we can allow them to charge the cost.”

Parents with children in some of the private schools said they were worried the institutions were disregarding Government’s directives.

In an anonymous statement, parents with children at CBC said the school imposed a $25 000 deposit on them, violating national laws.

Last term the fees was $17 000.

“The ministry spokesperson clearly stated they do not want to hear anything to do with payment of fees during lockdown as schools are closed. However, CBC continues to receive tuition fees for Second Term despite what the Government has announced. We paid the fees that was demanded before the deadline due to the fear of our children being deregistered,” read the statement.

“We are unhappy, as the current economic situation hampered further by Covid-19 lockdown has hit parents financially hard and yet the school does not seem to empathise with us.”

The parents said while they welcome online learning, it came with additional costs like buying data and computers, which affects them considering the exorbitant fees being demanded by schools. Chronicle

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