LAST week’s announcement by minister of Education, Lazarus Dokora that government had resolved to hike fees for Ordinary Level examination fees from $13 to $15 threatens to reverse all gains made since independence in 1980, parents and educationists say.
Parents are also now going to contribute towards the cost of Grade Seven Examinations. Announcing the increase, Dokora said the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) needs to be adequately resourced. “It is in this context that Cabinet has allowed a modest increase in fees at “O” Level to help cushion Zimsec on costs of achieving a tamper-proof examination delivery and monitoring system.
“Cabinet has also approved a contribution by parents towards the cost of the Grade Seven examination. “Modalities will be worked out on how this can be achieved without paying more than a dollar a term at appropriate Grade levels. The details of this system will be provided in due course.”
Parents and education analysts, however, say the government is not sincere as the $2 increase was a lot for the majority of Zimbabweans hamstrung by poverty.
Obert Masaraure, the Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, (RTUZ) president believes it is unfair that government was increasing the exam fees at a time when the economy is struggling.
“This would impact negatively for people in rural areas. The hike will worsen the education inequalities between the poor and the rich. With the introduction of a contribution for Grade 7 exams this can worsen the plight of the rural poor.”
Masaraure said there are less sources of income in the rural areas where one family can go for a month without accessing a dollar.
“There is a drought and tobacco did not do well. Most Rural folk survive on farming but this is being affected by drought. Some villagers can go for a month without laying hands on a dollar.”
A Harare education analyst says the rampant commodification of all sectors of our life has become so devastating and it is a pity that education is no exception.
He feels the hike in fees is tantamount to exclusion of the poor students and education becomes a privilege for the rich while ruining the future of the impoverished majority.
“It is not coincidental with the need for return of IMF all its forms of privatisation and social expenditure cut backs which ravaged people’s lives in the 90’s and the wounds are yet to heal.
“It is a shame that the government to whom the poor look up to for salvation, has turned out to be the greatest carnivore of the day, by pilfering into any sector of society where it can squeeze the people.”
Marjorie Mafuta, a mother of three from Mufakose says, Zimsec should be serious in its examination delivery. “Zimsec should be serious, what has changed in the way they do their things that is worth increasing exam fees for? They should not burden parents — it is difficult surviving in Zimbabwe as it is.
“Their exam papers are sold on the streets and they increase fees ostensibly to cushion Zimsec. This is not fair; Dokora and President Mugabe should be serious,” says Mafuta.
Patience Zingwiro, a mother of one from Avondale says while her husband is unemployed, his business folded during dollarisation era, she was also retrenched. “We have three children and an extended family. Instead of coming up with good policies in Cabinet, they are fighting among themselves introducing policies that hurt an already struggling electorate.”
Zingwiro says her hope was that life would become better if her son was educated. “We have always hoped that even if things get tough, as long as our children get an education it is okay that one day our life would be better, but if the exam fees are hiked like this we no longer have any hope.”
Themba Ndlovu, a parent from Bulawayo had different views. “But as a parent, I believe it is important to protect the integrity of the examination boards. Because if that integrity is compromised then our education system loses value and the graduates from our education system become less marketable.
“However, efforts should be made to cushion the less-privileged so that we don’t end up having a lot of school dropouts.”—Margaret Chinowaita