Parents with children enrolled at Arundel School in Harare are on collision course with authorities at the learning institution amid revelations that the school is demanding fees of up to US$2 500, or alternatively ZWL$139 975, for online lessons.
The latest development comes in the wake of warnings by the Zimbabwe Government last week that private schools must not demand fees for the second term until Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa advises the nation on schools’ re-opening dates.
Despite the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education saying it is not opposed to online schooling, the Government is yet to allow any school to alternatively use virtual learning amid the Covid-19 induced national lockdown.
Amid the prevailing circumstances, the Arundel school board pegged fees at US$1 550 ($85 250) for day scholars, US$2 265 ($124,575) for weekly boarders and US$2 545 ($139 975) for full boarders.
The school board chairperson Douglas Hoto justified the increases in an interview with state media.
“The costs structure of an independent school is very different from that of a public school where the cost of employment is met by the Government. In our case, we meet all the staff costs from our resources which is the school fees,” said Hoto.
He added that the cost of employment is about 65 to 70 percent of the cost of running the private learning institution.
“This does not go away because of the lockdown so at the very least, each parent should expect to pay about 75 percent of what was being paid when there was no lockdown,” he said.
Full online classes at Arundel School started on Wednesday this week.
But parents expressed discontent over the fees increase, saying their livelihoods had been affected by continued lockdown.
“I think they should charge reasonably considering that their running expenses are not that high. They already have the infrastructure for e-learning and it’s not like they are starting from scratch. They also have to consider the fact that parents are the ones meeting Wi-Fi costs,” a parent who could not be named said.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has affected parents’ earnings negatively. Some people have lost their revenue sources completely and it is insensitive to charge at such a level,” added another parent.