I guess it was only a matter of time until school fees top-ups would re-surface. Considering that fuel prices have been officially hiked thrice within the last 6 months, it comes as no surprise at all. It has emerged that some schools are now expecting parents to top-up their children’s term two school fees. This is occurring amongst boarding schools and understandably so because food commodities are now pricier than they were when schools opened. Now that schools are midway through the second term most school authorities have cited that they can’t get as far as the end of the term without fees being topped up.

Prices Of Goods And Services Are The Stressor

Due to foreign currency shortages, fuel shortages and hikes plus the ever-weakening value of the RTGS$ against the US dollar, prices have been going up. This obviously has been premised on the rising costs of productions or operating costs in general. Due to business service providers’ thrust to stay afloat in this current environment of high inflation, they have been forced to adjust their prices upwards. It’s no wonder why boarding schools would mention the need for top-ups. When schools created school fees structures for this term they could have never really anticipated that prices of basic commodities would reach where they are now. Essentially the top-ups are meant to cater for price volatilities of basic goods and services.

What Are Parents Saying About This?

There seems to be a consensus amongst parents that prices of basics have shot up. However, it’s going to be quite challenging for them to acquire the top-ups required. The situation is such that some parents hadn’t yet finished paying off the initial round of fees. Thus, it becomes even more tasking for them to, first of all, clear the initial round and then pay up the top-ups (of which the top-ups are urgently needed). Some parents have had their children stay home completely because they failed to raise enough money for them to go to school this time around. Plus we mustn’t forget that most of these parents have incomes that have remained somewhat the same all throughout the economic issues unfolding in the country. So you now find that a lot of parents are resorting to options that entail getting into debt. Parents do appreciate the indispensable need to send their kids to school but the prevailing situation is hard-pressing them. I’ll give an example of one school that had placated fees at ZWL$12000 for this second term. That school would probably need a top-up of at least RTGS$250 to endure till the end of the term. That’s quite a big deal for most parents because that top-up can be equivalent to half of someone’s monthly salary.

What’s The Education Ministry Saying?

They are saying that the increment of school fees can’t be done without their approval. Thus this implies that if there’s no ministerial approval then the school fees structure remains unchanged. They also highlighted that a proposal or request for school fees increase should be a joint venture i.e. that proposal should be arrived at by both the school authorities and the parents. This means in the event that a school wants to forward a proposal they should first of all reach an understanding with the parents. The third thing the ministry indicated was that the mere forwarding of such requests shows an element of poor planning by the school authorities. I think somehow that’s too harsh coming from the ministry. The environment we are operating in right now is largely unpredictable. Just this morning we woke up to the news that fuel prices have been hiked again; petrol now costs RTGS$5.26 and diesel now costs RTGS$5.07. At the beginning of the term, it would have been unfathomable that fuel prices will reach where they are now. So it’s a bit unfortunate that blaming school authorities for being poor planners is something the education ministry would even mention.

The previous school term some schools had put in place arrangements where parents could pay part of their children’s fees in kind. The arrangement was such that they could pay in groceries form e.g. mealie-meal, cooking oil, rice and the like. Regardless, it still will be a tall order for parents to manage.