Education minister warns private schools

The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Ambassador Cain Mathema, has warned private schools to desist from charging exorbitant distance learning fees and levies for online learning without government’s approval.

After President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic a national state of disaster March 17, 2020 schools were closed in the country, affecting the learning calendar.

Owing to the closure of schools, online and distance learning have become the means to carry out lessons but some schools have taken advantage of this opportunity by charging exorbitant fees for online classes.

Addressing journalists in Bulawayo on Saturday on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on schools and the charging of fees and levies, Minister Mathema, reminded stakeholders that the Education Act Chapter (25:04) applied to all government, non-government schools, correspondence and independent colleges.

This meant that no responsible authority should charge any fee, or levy or increase any fee or levy without approval through the Permanent secretary of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, said the minister.

“The ministry appreciates that online and distance learning have become necessary owing to the closure of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic. While the ministry is developing online and distance learning programmes, school initiatives are welcome,” he said.

But Mathema emphasised that such initiatives by schools must receive the necessary approvals from the ministry before any implementation takes place.

“Any fee or levy that is charged for online and distance learning programmes must receive prior approval. What the nation has experienced recently where such school initiatives appear to be construed as part of the Second School Term, with schools giving deadlines to parents and guardians for the payment of unapproved fees or levies is not acceptable. I would want all of us to work as a team for the good of our children,” the minister said.

He noted that the fees and levies charged by some schools bordered as criminal activities.

“Some very high fees and levies that have been brought to my attention, including in foreign currency, appear extortionist and we should not have this in the education .Section 17 of the Education Act provides for the 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. 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 for some learners to new schools ,” said the Minister.

Mathema urged private schools to stick to the law and consult.

“I cannot emphasize 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,” warned the education minister.

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