THE Government must explain the sudden increase in fees levied against private schools.
From a flat charge of K400 the Ministry of Education raised the fee to K6,000 for early Childhood, K8,000for primary schools and k10,000 for secondary schools.
These are blanket charges applying to all schools regardless of their size, location or indeed clientele profile.
At face value the increase seems minimal but with closer scrutiny, it is clear that many community schools will not be able to afford the increase which situation may lead to the closure of most community schools.
Obviously the fees were pegged at the Ministry headquarters by the new Teaching Council of Zambia without any reference and consultation with schools on the ground.
What is most frustrating is that in spite of protests from most schools the Ministry has stuck to its guns and has only compromised by shifting the deadline for the payment of fees. Instead of 31st March the school must pay by 30th June.
Schools which default have been warned of dire consequences including closure.
This is ridiculous.
This is the same genre as publishing textbooks using foreign owned companies when our own publishers are equipped and stand ready for the task.
To date there has been no plausible explanation from the Ministry why shady contracts were allowed when it was patently clear that the goal posts had been shifted to disadvantage Zambian publishers. No amount of explanation can justify such inconsistent, inconsiderate and utterly deplorable decisions.
We are aware that the new minister is getting to terms and has little say in the intricacies of the Ministry, but failure at any level will end with the political head of the institution. We have seen the documentation and there is no doubt that the textbook contract was corrupt and should not be allowed to stand or proceed.
These are the types of cases that a more credible Anti-Corruption Commission should have taken time to look into because the amounts are large and the people involved are fairly senior in Government.
We refuse to believe that a company formed last year, in time for the contracts, could have more capacity than the many Zambians companies that have existed for many years.
Something is very wrong at the Ministry.
The Ministry must pay attention to complaints especially those coming from Zambians who have a vested interest in the well-being of this country.
Whatever money the Zambians make will remain in this country.
It will not be repatriated to the UK, East Africa, South Africa, India or any other country where these companies are actually domiciled.
In the case of fees for private schools, we appeal to the Government to take a hard looks at the facts as they exist on the ground and make a determination in the best interest of the schools.
How indeed can a listening Government force parents of a community school to fork out K6,000, when the combined income of the entire community is close to zero because most of the residents are not engaged in gainful employment.
It may indeed be true that some of the private school are affluent as they are patronized by well to do parents, but this still begs the question.
Why should schools pay Government?