Parents petition Sacred Heart school over fee hike

Parents with children learning at Sacred Heart Primary school in Esigodini are planning to petition the school administration after a hike in fees from US$350 to US$789 this term without a proper explanation.

The boarding school, run by the Roman Catholic Church, is also demanding that parents fork out another US$70 per child to buy a washing machine.

Parents told CITE that efforts to communicate with the school had hit a brick wall, as the authorities muted them from participating in their WhatsApp communication group.

“When schools opened this term we paid $350 for the Grade Sevens and when the rest of the classes resumed, fees became US$456 after the government effected a 30 percent increase. Then out of the blue, last month, school fees went up to US$789,” said parents who requested anonymity in fear of having their children victimised.

The school authorities allegedly told parents that the increase was approved by the education ministry yet they failed to produce such communication.

“The school sent messages that read, ‘Good morning parents and guardians. Our fees and special levy for the laundry machine has been approved. We can now pay,’ as the justification for the fees hike,” parents noted.

“The administration claims the hike was approved by the Ministry but they failed to provide the authorisation letter. By the way, the laundry fee is $70 per child for the washing machine.”

When reached for comment, Headmistress of Sacred Heart Primary, Sindiso Mpofu said she could not comment and referred questions to the Matabeleland South district office.

In an interview with CITE, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Director of Communications and Advocacy, Taungana Ndoro advised parents to launch a complaint to the ministry then officials would take it up with the school.

“Parents must not pay what they didn’t agree to and the school also can’t implement what parents didn’t agree on,” he said.

Due to the poor communication lines, parents have drafted a petition to the school, listing their concerns on the school fees hike, washing machine contributions and are awaiting a response from authorities.

Parents have even opened another WhatsApp group where they could communicate as they were muted on the one run by the school administration.

“The existence of another parent group is evidence enough of the desperation parents face. While we initially had a school group, the same would be muted, now and then, as long the discussions were not palatable with the school. But this has gone to another level this time around to a point where the school due to its wisdom, lack of it or both completely decided to switch off parents. The switching off following fees increment which will be discussed later but the school just did not want to take the views of parents into consideration,” they said.

“We are also operating under Covid-19 environment where as parents we can’t and are not allowed to access our little ones, yet the school advises parents with less than 12 hours that the bus will be in town making it difficult for parents to mobilise resources to buy parcels for children. As if that is not enough, during the Covid-19 outbreak last term, the school did not share with parents adequate information.”

The parents noted that Sacred Heart had another WhatsApp group, which was said to be for new parents.

“We rely on other parents to share communication from the school which is also frustrating,” they echoed, calling for the school to improve communication. Communication between school and parents regarding children, school bus and general matters must improve. We would actually expect communication to be both ways but now we have a top down approach where we only receive updates and as parents we can not air our views, we are at the mercy of the school,” chorused another parent.

The WhatsApp group was created during the Covid-19 restrictions when movement was limited but when parents raised concerns the school powers muted the same group.

“How then are the parents supposed to know what is going on if the only means of communication is closed. Yes there are times when parents get too harsh with our words. But the school should understand our frustrations. Muting the group makes it worse. So can the school please try and improve on the communication,” said the parents.

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