REGIS CHINGAWO IN MASVINGO
Teachers have urged the government to take measures against boarding schools that have increased fees by more than 200%, Business Times can report.
Most boarding schools are now charging between ZWL$75 000 and ZWL$120 000 a term.
The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president, Takavafira Zhou told Business Times that the new school fees will make it difficult for parents, especially teachers to make ends meet.
“We are calling on the government to revisit the issue of boarding schools whose fees are now ranging from between ZWL$75 000 to ZWL$120 000.What this means is that most parents, particularly teachers who are receiving meagre salaries will not be able to pay school fees,” Zhou said.
He added: “What is more worrisome is the fact that we have some teachers earning as little as ZWL$19 000. How such teachers are expected to be motivated to teach other people’s children in schools where their own children cannot learn by virtue of their poverty remains puzzling.
“Fundamentally, education is a right and not a privilege, and at worst must be accessible and affordable.
“But in a situation where fees are exorbitant, and a considerable number of parents cannot afford to send their children to school, it becomes a security threat. There is also danger of a high drop-out rate thereby creating a powder-keg for future instability in a country. The reason for a quantum leap of robbery cases by security forces in Zimbabwe is nothing other than poor salaries. It is therefore not necessary to heap burning coals upon the heads of suffering Zimbabweans through exorbitant fees.”
Teachers are pushing the government to pay their salaries in US dollars to cushion them from the high cost of living in light of the inflationary environment prevailing in the country.
“There is an urgent need for a balance between exorbitant fees and workers’ salaries. Not surprisingly teachers have long called for the restoration of the purchasing power parity of their salaries pegged at an average of US$540 as before October 2018, as well as sector specific allowances.
“We have engaged parliamentary portfolio committees that have submitted sound recommendations to the government on teachers’ salaries and conditions of service. Sadly, the recommendations are gathering dust in some offices rather than being implemented.
“In a nutshell, there is an urgent need to address the exorbitant school fees and starvation salaries of teachers before schools open. Any attempt to ignore these quandaries will generate inherent contradictions and challenges to the education system in Zimbabwe, let alone industrial disharmony and lack of productivity,” Zhou said.
Government says it will now pay civil servants a Covid-19 risk allowance starting January 2022.
Under the scheme, the rest of the civil service will get US$75, while pensioners will be getting US$30, all in hard cash.
But some teachers organisations have rejected the offer saying the government needs to pay salaries in US dollars