GOVERNMENT has given greenlight for schools to charge fees in United States (US) dollars, leading to calls for formal dollarisation as the majority of the country’s workforce earn in Zimbabwe dollars.
This follows a public outcry among parents after schools withheld end of term results for thousands of pupils who failed to pay their fees in full for the second term which ended on Thursday.
Some schools were demanding outstanding fees in US$, arguing that they had been eroded by inflation which climbed to 256,9% last month, from 191,65% in June.
Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro said schools could charge fees in United States dollars to recoup operational costs
“Some parents have been disregarding reminders by school authorities to pay school fees. So those parents who have their children’s results withheld should go and engage school authorities and discuss the way forward,” he said.
“It is justifiable for schools to demand the fees arrears according to the prevailing interbank rate. Schools can charge the fees in foreign currency and accept forex from parents, but in accordance with the prevailing interbank rate. However, schools must not force parents to pay in foreign currency exclusively.”
A latest survey by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) said parents and guardians could no longer afford paying school fees, with only 26% able to meet education expenses for their children, as poverty levels in the country remain high.
School heads have also been refusing to register Ordinary and Advanced Level Zimbabwe School Examinations Council candidates who had not paid their fees in full.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said giving schools the greenlight to peg fees in US dollars was a recipe for disaster for workers earning in Zimbabwe dollars.
“Since the government is saying it has not yet dollarised, it must not allow schools to charge in forex. What it means is the government has totally lost control over the education sector,” Zhou said.
Zimbabwe National Union of School Heads president Munyaradzi Majoni said: “This is a clear admission that the US$ is the only practical currency.”
Yesterday, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) said a family of five now required $281 000 a month to survive, up from $240 000 in June as the local currency tumbles and prices of basics and services skyrocket.
According to CCZ acting executive director Rosemary Mpofu, the food basket increased by 21,53% from June to July 2022.
“The cost of living continues to go up as highlighted by the July consumer basket,” Mpofu said. “The cost of living, as measured by the CCZ’s low-income urban earners’ monthly basket for a family of six, increased from the end of June figure of $240 014,45 to $281 062,83 by end of July 2022, showing an increase of $41 048.”
Economists warned citizens to brace for more price hikes, with the price of bread set to go up again after the Grain Marketing Board increased the price of wheat by 30%.
Economist Gift Mugano said: “There is a need for the government to remove distortions in foreign exchange and gold markets by liberalising the exchange rates. For the avoidance of doubt, as long as there are distortions, it is clear that any policy prescribed around the same market will fail.
“Government must place emphasis on the commodity exchange as an effective vehicle for financing and market of agricultural commodities as opposed to the current arrangement where the financing and marketing of agricultural commodities is largely in the hands of the government.”