The ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has shut down 119 schools for defying a government order to regularise their operations, it has been established.
Some 400 private schools in the capital alone were operating illegally, as indicated by recent statistics from the Harare provincial education directorate.
About a week earlier, the ministry has caused the closure of 38 private schools and the arrest of 32 owners.
The number, according to the director of communications and advocacy in the ministry, Taungana Ndoro, has fast risen to 119, but it was not immediately clear what fate the remainder would face.
The private schools and colleges offering early childhood learning to advanced level studies were operating without licences, in breach of the Education Act, and had been given an ultimatum to regularise their operations or face closure.
Ndoro told Grazers News that government would continue the clampdown on the schools, adding that the unregulated learning centres were driving down educational standards.
‘’The problem is that there is no monitoring of the curriculum and safety of the students (at the unregistered schools),’’ said Nyandoro.
The ministry, though, could not avail the list of schools that were closed or the period they had been operating for.
It, however, noted that a large number of the unlicenced learning institutions was located in medium and high- population suburbs.
Muguti revealed that his ministry was inundated with complaints from parents whose grievances included steep fees hikes that were based on black market rates, mismanagement of funds and rejection of payments in the local currency.
Some of the fees hikes were fraudulent, said Muguti.
“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.
Meanwhile, parents at Sandringham High School, a United Methodist boarding-and-day institution outside Norton, came out guns blazing over a steep fees and expenses budget proposal made by senior management recently.
Last term, learners paid ZW$43, 000 but the total figure including practical subjects now stands at ZW$190,000.
This translates to close to US$2,000 using the official exchange rate.
Sandringham fees, investigations revealed, have hardly gone beyond US$500 in the last 10 years.
Last year, the head of Nyamuzuwe High in Mutoko—another Methodist school—was arrested for unilaterally effecting a fees hike.
The increases are supposed to be agreed at a parents-teacher meeting where a quorum is constituted.
An official from Sandringham who declined being identified, however, said the increase was only a proposal over which the parents and school authorities would meet to discuss and agree on a final figure.
The school authorities, it was established, called for a meeting at Sandringham about two weeks ago but irate parents boycotted it.
They insisted on a webinar rather than a physical meeting, complaining about the bad state of the road to the school and the extra expenses involved in travelling for the extraordinary convention.
“It was a budget proposal. Parents were consulted and the budget proposal has not been finalised. The parents should deliberate on the budget proposal so that after that when they come out with a figure they then apply to the ministry,” said the official.
The school management has since agreed to a virtual meeting, with parents, as shown in social media group chats, proposing between ZW$80,000 and ZW$90,000 ahead of the meeting.
Leaked chats from a Whatsapp group chat of parents with children at the school revealed that a majority of the parents deemed the proposal “ridiculous”.
Some were considering taking their children to different schools.
‘’We end up having scenarios where, after parents have paid the fees, teachers will refuse to teach because they cannot afford to pay for their own children considering their salaries. The proposed fees are 8 months’ worth of a teacher’s salary,’’ one parent wrote in a Whatsapp group.
Ndoro told Grazers News: “The procedure has always been that parents come up with an agreed position then they seek approval from the ministry for validation. If that has not been done, any fees that are unilaterally increased are illegal.”