The dramatic rise in numbers of small private schools has now seen more than 400 such schools operating illegally in Harare with the office of the Minister of State for Harare Provincial Affairs and Devolution being inundated with complaints from concerned parents.
Some schools are said to be raising fees or levies without going through the required processes.
In a statement yesterday, Harare Secretary for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Mr Tafadzwa Muguti said the minister’s office had received many complaints from parents over increases in school fees and levies.
“The office of the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution is inundated with complaints from parents and guardians over unsanctioned increase in school fees, charging of fees at parallel market rates, refusal of local currency payments, barring of school development committees, mismanagement of funds and failure to supply audited financials,” he said.
Mr Muguti also expressed concern over schools that were failing to cooperate with officials from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education which has managerial or oversight authority, depending on the school’s status, and has the final say on whether school fees or levies can be raised and if so by how much following the necessary consultations with parents.
“We have since established through the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education that we have well over 400 unregistered primary and secondary schools operating illegally throughout the province.
“These schools have operated illegally for many years and have a student population ranging between 300 to 1 000 students respectively.
“Reports from the provincial education directorate also reveal that the majority of private and public schools in the province did not seek Government authority to increase fees in 2022 but instead used authorisation letters dating as far back as 2013 to charge these latest school fees despite all increases being reviewed on an annual basis and in need of approval of at least 20 percent of parents,” he said.
“There is also a growing illusion that private schools are not subjected to the Education Act nor oversight by the Government.
“This gross indiscipline within the education sector in Harare Metropolitan Province has become a perpetual challenge to parents and guardians. Let it be understood that we shall no longer tolerate such ignorance and lawlessness.”
Mr Tafadzwa Muguti said the provincial education directorate will immediately lead a supervision programme before schools re-open to enforce the Education Act and will report misconduct to the appropriate arm of
Government for action.
“All schools that are operating without Government authority and those that have increased fees without the necessary approvals are urged to immediately regularise their operations. The consequences are well articulated in the same Act that authorises their very existence.
“Parents and guardians reserve the right to request written proof of Government registration, municipal licensing, and school fees increases.
“Any form of misconduct, discrimination, or intimidation should be reported to the Office of the Secretary for Provincial Affairs and Devolution,” he said.
Under the Education Act, all private schools have to be registered with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, which retains the right of inspecting these schools periodically and ensuring that they are following the national curriculum although they are allowed to add extra subjects.
Under the Act, all increases in fees or levies have to go before a meeting of parents called for the purpose, which must have a quorum of at least 20 percent of parents, before a vote can be called. If the proposals gain a majority at the meeting then the school applies to the Education Ministry for permission to collect the new fee or levy, backing the application with financial statements and budgets and minutes of the meeting which must record the names of the parents attending.