Riverton Academy is a popular private school in Masvingo that offers teaching services from early childhood development (ECD) to high school. The school is famed for being one of the most expensive schools in Masvingo province. If you recall the story of a student whose parent came on visiting day with a helicopter – that was at Riverton Academy. Often time people have castigated the school for charging exorbitant school fees but it’s a private school thus it’s bound to be expensive. After all, the most driven argument has been that of why someone would send their child there if they can’t afford it; let those who can do.

Term 3 Fees

The school sent out a circular to parents/guardians on the 28th of July citing an upward review of school fees. The basis of their fees review is the SI (statutory instrument) 142 of 2019 in which it was stipulated that foreign currency is no longer legal tender in Zimbabwe. Well, there have been recent backtracks on that SI with some sectors now being allowed to transact in foreign currency locally. Anyways, that’s not the focus of my discussion today. So the directive of making the Zimbabwean dollar (i.e. the RTGS$) legal tender has obviously led to price hikes and distortions. Fuel has so far been hiked 4 times since the year started.

So the school is saying such factors have necessitated them to hike the fees in order to catch up with the rising costs of goods and services. Areas like the school’s dining hall, hostels and fuel requirements are undoubtedly characterised by goods and services whose prices have sharply gone up. This coupled with the school’s overall quest to provide quality service has made an upward review of school fees inevitable. The fees are as follows, ECD RTGS$5 500, Primary school day scholars RTGS$9 000, Primary school borders RTGS$26 500 and Secondary school boarders RTGS$35 000. I know there’s a huge debate about how ridiculously high these fees are but I think they’re justified. The short justification for my opinion is that this is a private school which foots all its bills on its own i.e. from the welfare of students to the remuneration of its entire staff. Anyways, it also seems that the school has found a way to get foreign currency payments in cash, here’s how:

An Ingenious Plan To Get Foreign Currency In Cash

Here’s the thing, Riverton Academy does have some foreign students. Also, they have local students whose parents or guardians (or ones paying their school fees) are based regionally or abroad. Essentially this means that school fees for such cases can be paid in foreign currency with ease. What the school has now done is that those fees will be paid to them via money sending/transfer agents. The money transfer agents in question here are Western Union, Mukuru, World Remit and Moneygram. From their circular, you’ll notice that they have deliberately highlighted that fees denominated in RTGS$ can be sent directly to their CBZ account. For extraterritorial parents who are obviously predisposed to pay in foreign currency, they have emphasised on them paying through money transfer agents.

The clever thing about this move is that it doesn’t violate the SI 142 of 2019. People can still receive foreign currency through money transfer agents. It’s quite obvious that the government isn’t opposed to people receiving foreign currency from the diaspora because it benefits from money realized from charges on such remittances. With the money received through money transfer agents, the school gets to receive and keep foreign currency wholly in cash. This essentially becomes a good store of value and also makes it easy to access goods and services when you have foreign currency. The school has avoided the deposit of the foreign currency into their bank account because they know through that route they won’t get money wholly in cash. Currently, when you receive foreign currency into your business bank account, it’s mandatory that half of it is converted to RTGS$ at the interbank rate. Within 30 days the remaining balance must be used to make foreign currency payments lest it be converted also. So this is what Riverton Academy has skirted by taking the money transfer agents route.

So this route the school has assumed in handling foreign currency fees payments is a fallow one. We’ll see how it plays out for them because the government is likely to have something to say. It has been easy for Riverton Academy to come up with this plan because they have the advantage of having a significant number of students whose parents are extra-territorial.