The school holidays are coming to a close and already there is trouble on the horizon with a lot of schools demanding that fees be paid exclusively in USD. On the other hand, the government has threatened to unleash Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) officers as well as other policing arms on schools in order to clamp down on the practice of demanding USD fees as they say it is illegal under various laws and regulations. This means we are headed for a nasty showdown.

We are aware of what is happening in schools and it is a crisis. However, the policy is clear that fees must be paid in local currency and if parents or guardians have the funds, they can pay in foreign currency.

They should not be forced to pay in foreign currency or coerced to pay using parallel market rates.

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So we are taking remedial action and we will be engaging other arms of Government such as ZACC (Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission) to rectify the situation.

Taungana Ndoro Communications and Advocacy Director in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education

Why schools are demanding that fees be paid exclusively in USD

Even though the bulk of formally employed Zimbabweans get paid in Zimbabwean dollars (ZWL) the informal sector is dominated by the usage of the US dollar. They shun the ZWL because it has been very volatile since its return. ZWL prices have a tendency of going up with little warning. This makes planning and saving difficult if you are a large organisation like a school.

A classic example is last that of the last term. Schools were compelled to accept payment in Zimbabwean dollars. Thanks to rate spikes and inflation schools had lost half their money by the second month. A lot of schools ended up asking for top-ups from parents as prices spiralled out of control in the wake of the war in Ukraine. Boarding schools were especially affected as they buy a lot of groceries and supplies for their students.

A lot of schools now have an understanding with parents. You can pay in USD or ZWL but if you pay using ZWL you will be asked for a top-up when things go awry while those who pay in USD need only pay once. That might end up being the solution put in place by most schools.