President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has officially introduced school fees denominated in foreign currency, exposing the hollowness of the promise to provide free primary education for Zimbabweans.

In the run-up to the August national polls, Mnangagwa said his government would provide free primary education.

This surprising policy shift has raised concerns about the accessibility of education for many Zimbabwean families, placing a financial strain on parents and prompting scepticism about the government’s commitment to its electoral promises.

This unexpected announcement, detailed in a gazette notice, has ignited controversy, particularly given that 80 percent of the population, predominantly government workers, receive their salaries in the local currency.

The move to US dollar-denominated fees burdens parents who are already grappling with insufficient incomes to cover basic living expenses.

Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Torerayi Moyo, communicated the fee structure in a statement to the public via state media on Monday.

Rural government primary schools are instructed to cap fees at US$10 per term, while their urban counterparts should not exceed US$20 per term.

Despite the fees being quoted in US dollars, parents and guardians are afforded the flexibility to make payments in the local currency, pegged to the prevailing exchange rate on the payment date for Zimbabwean pupils.

For secondary schools, Statutory Instrument 240 of 2023, Education (Tuition and Boarding Fees) (Government Schools) (Amendment) Regulations, 2023 (No. 1), delineates the fee structure. S1 schools in low-density suburbs set tuition fees at US$40 per term, S2 schools in high-density suburbs at US$20 per term, and S3 schools in rural areas at US$10 per term.

Crucially, parents contribute only a fraction of the total costs, as the government covers teachers’ salaries in government schools and certain additional expenses.

The gazetted fees for pupils residing outside Zimbabwe, without taxpayer support, underscore the extent of government assistance—US$300 per term for primary tuition and US$400 per term for secondary schools, payable exclusively in US dollars.

While the published tuition fees seem comprehensive, the government’s expanded BEAM program aims to ensure coverage for pupils from the most economically disadvantaged families.

Additionally, some government schools retain the option to request a top-up levy from parents through school development associations, contingent on approval by the majority of parents and the Ministry.

Source Zimeye