COMMENT: Arrest school authorities who demand ‘top-up’ fees

The Chronicle

The move to allow parents to pay school fees in the currency of their choice at the prevailing official exchange rate, is a responsive intervention which proves that Government is alive to the challenges facing the nation. 

In a bid to beat inflation, schools have been pegging fees in foreign currency.

However, some schools have been trying to force parents to pay in forex only, which is illegal.

Government has said parents with free funds are allowed to pay in foreign currency, but those without ready access to the same should not be compelled to do so.

As we reported yesterday, investigation teams have already been deployed around the country to hold to account errant school authorities charging fees exclusively in foreign currency.

“All institutions providing primary and secondary education are reminded that they fall under the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

“Therefore, they are bound by the procedures to be followed when making school fees adjustments, that is to say approval must be granted by the ministry before any adjustments are made.

“On paying fees in foreign currency, the Government policy position is that fees must be paid in Zimbabwean dollars at the prevailing interbank rate,” said the ministry’s spokesperson Mr Taungana Ndoro.

“However, if parents have free funds in foreign currency, they can pay, but no school must force any parent to pay in foreign currency and if schools have pegged fees in foreign currency, parents must be allowed to pay in local currency at the prevailing interbank rate of the day the fees are paid.”

School authorities must appreciate this bold move by Government. They must remember that most parents are paid salaries in local currency, but because they value education, they are willing to pay in forex.

Some of the schools that are at the forefront when demanding to be paid in forex, pay their own workers in local currency.

This is because they are greedy and have only commercial interests at heart. 

Government has been very realistic in allowing fees to be pegged in foreign currency, but the issue of the prevailing interbank rate needs close monitoring.

Cunning school authorities charge fees at the prevailing interbank rate at the start of the term, but also demand a “top-up” in the middle of the term.  

When one adds the initial fees charged and the “top-up”, the total is equal to the forex black market rate.

This means the schools want the black market rate and not the prevailing interbank rate. The “top-up” is actually a remainder on the black market rate.

Government, through the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, must ban “top-up” fees to protect parents from greedy schools.

The decision to allow parents to pay school fees in the currency of their choice is not an endorsement of the black market. Schools must be told this.

We commend Government for being sensitive to the needs of schools, but the so-called “top-up” is, in fact, a rip-off.

School authorities must be arrested for demanding such.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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