Illegal fees hikes: Govt to name, shame schools

SCHOOL authorities who unilaterally hiked third term tuition fees, in contravention of regulations stipulating that learning institutions must seek Government approval before effecting increases, will face charges of criminal financial misconduct.

Institutions demanding tuition fees “top-ups” will also face sanctions.

This week, the Government will publicly name and shame schools found to have adjusted tuition fees and levies without approval from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

The Sunday Mail has gathered that education authorities have launched an investigation targeting the schools, with some suspected of demanding payment of tuition fees exclusively in United States dollars.

In terms of Circular Number 1 of 2023, all Government boarding schools, private early childhood development (ECD) centres, and private schools and colleges are required to apply for a review of levies and tuition fees before effecting changes.

Schools opened last week for the third and final term of the year.

Acting Permanent Secretary in the ministry Ms Kwadzanayi Nyanungo on Friday said a list of the offending institutions will be published “in the next seven days”.

“The ministry is currently monitoring and enforcing strict compliance with the provisions of the Secretary’s Circular Number 1 of 2023, which provides standard guidelines for the determination and processing of applications for the increase of school fees and levies,” she said.

“This circular is in line with the Treasury’s requirements on

management of public funds.

“In the next seven days, statistics will be ready on the exact number of non-compliant schools and the action taken in this regard.”

Ms Nyanungo said there are two decision-making levels for approval of an adjustment to school fees and levies, which are done at provincial level.

“Within the devolution system, provincial education directors use the stated guidelines to process applications for an increase of fees and levies at their level and the statistics thereof are maintained at provincial level.

“As we speak, the ministry is conducting a survey to determine the exact number of applications per district, province, the proposed increase margin and the proportions of approval and rejections,” she said.

The Government, she said, will take legal action against schools defying the regulations.

“The Secretary’s Circular Number 1 of 2023 clearly explains the guidelines and processes to be followed by any school.

“Any violation of this policy requirement will be handled in line with Statutory Instrument 1 of 2000, as amended, as it constitutes an act of financial misconduct that also brings the ministry into disrepute,” said Ms Nyanungo.

“Furthermore, the illegal collection of unapproved fees constitutes serious financial malpractice that other competent arms of Government are also addressing in their own right.

“These include the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Financial Intelligence Unit.”

She said parents must reject unapproved tuition fee adjustments.

“It is a criminal offence and affected parents should use all channels to provide specific details to enable Government to take action,” she continued.

“Such details should include the name of the school, name of the school head, district, province and evidence of financial malpractice, including the issuance of a receipt in a different currency to the one paid.

“The ministry requests the media to assist in disseminating the correct position that the approval of fees is a non-negotiable requirement for any schools to demand additional payment from parents or guardians.

“Parents have the right to demand proof of the ministry’s approval and even check the date of approval.”

Reads Circular Number 1 of 2023: “All schools should submit their applications for fees approval to the Provincial Education Directors who will in turn forward applications with recommendations . . . to be considered by the Permanent Secretary for Primary and Secondary Education. All fees and levy applications should be approved for use before collection.”

Schools intending to adjust tuition fees and levies must attach to their application current audited bank accounts, minutes from a properly constituted school parents’ assembly meeting, and their last fee and levy approval document. They are also supposed to attach a proposed budget approved by the parents’ assembly.

It states: “All modes of payment and currencies obtaining in Zimbabwe shall be acceptable for fees and levies settlement. Requests by schools for payment in an exclusively specific currency are not permissible.”

Sunday Mail

Positive Eye

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