Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
PRIVATE schools are facing opposition from parents for demanding Third Term fees despite Government shelving the reopening of schools.
Schools such as Petra College and Girls College have demanded that parents pay fees for the remainder of the year.
Some have removed pupils from online learning platforms demanding fees for second term against Government’s policy position that pupils must not be penalised, but action must be taken against parents.
Schools closed in March as Government imposed measures to mitigate the spread of the virus and last Tuesday Cabinet deferred the reopening of schools from July 28 to a later date due to increasing Covid-19 cases.
To ensure learners do not regress educationally, some schools have adopted online learning while Government delivers lessons on radio.
Parents who spoke to Chronicle yesterday said their businesses had been negatively affected by Covid-19 and expected schools to demand fees that reflect that only online learning was in progress and the country was in a health crisis. They also said some of the relatives outside the country who used to help them were also affected, but schools were rejecting payment plans.
Petra College chairman Mr Mpiyesizwe Ndebele in a letter dated July 17, announced the school’s fees structure which stands at US$1 400 for secondary school, junior school US$900 and Early Childhood Development (ECD) classes pay US$800.
Girls College is demanding payment of $49 000 for second term and is yet to communicate the third term fees.
In an interview yesterday, Mr Ndebele said they will review the amount after Government said schools will no longer be reopening.
“We came up with that structure at the time when the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education had tabled the phased reopening. We have not reviewed as yet and we are still to review it in light of what the ministry has announced,” said Mr Ndebele.
Mr Ndebele, however, declined to comment on the second term fees they were demanding not being approved by Government.
However, parents said the school was not telling the truth.
“We are shocked that this is what they are telling the media. The Cabinet’s resolution was made on Tuesday but we received the letters on Friday. They need to be open with their communication. It doesn’t make sense that we make payments when we are not sure when schools are opening. Online learning is good to assist children in many ways but still this doesn’t justify the fees being demanded,” said a parent who preferred speaking anonymously.
At Girls College, the institution is said to have early this month removed pupils who have not paid fees for the second term from Google Classroom in violation of the education policy.
The policy states that it is unconstitutional for schools to victimise learners for nonpayment of fees as it is a parent that signs contractual obligations.
Girls College administrator, Mr Mbongeni Mkhwananzi declined to comment saying he is not responsible for talking to the press.
“We were expecting the people in charge of running the school on July 28. I am not responsible for speaking to the press. Please do not quote me,” said Mr Mkhwananzi.
However, a parent at the school said when they approach Girls College for payment plans, the school refuses and refers them to a financial institution that has a partnership with the college that provides a loan to pay the full amount and parents are required to pay back with interest.
Bulawayo Provincial Education Director Mrs Olicah Kaira said school fees increases have not been approved.
She said approvals for fee increments are granted by the permanent secretary in the Ministry Mrs Tumisang Thabela.
Reached for comment, Mrs Thabela directed questions to the Ministry director of communications Mr Taungana Ndoro, who demanded that questions be sent in writing.
Mr Ndoro had not responded to them by time going to print.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Ambassador Cain Mathema, said the policy position remains that no school should be demanding fees payment outside set regulations.
“Any school fees for registered schools are approved by the permanent secretary so they must follow procedure. Because policy wise even Government schools have costs whether schools are closed or not. That is why under normal circumstances levies are paid in such a way that they cover the running of the schools.
“Because schools have to pay utility bills and so forth. So, the policy has been no payment of fees or levies whether public or private schools if not approved,” said Mr Mathema.
He said it was time for education stakeholders to debate about how they want schools to operate during this Covid-19 but challenged parents to be heavily involved in their children’s [email protected]