By Cletus Mushanawani
The recent increase in examination fees by the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) has sparked an outcry among parents, with most saying the hike will make education unaffordable to many.
The examination fees that were increased to $190 from $15 for Ordinary Level candidates and $351 from $26 for Advanced Level candidates are beyond the reach of many.
The $190 for O’ Level will apply to both public and private candidates and the same applies to A’ Level fees.
Foreign candidates will have to fork $443 to register for an O’ Level subject while the amendment fees for a subject at O’ Level is now pegged at $89. Addition of a new subject now costs $228.
Late entry will now attract a further $228 for learners while centres that will submit late entries will be charged $810.
A’ Level candidates will pay an extra $324 for Communication Skills while foreign candidates will pay $717 per subject.
To amend a subject at A’ Level, candidates will pay an extra $162, while those who intend to add another subject will pay an extra $432.
Closing dates for payments and submission of entries for June examinations is February 28, while the closing date for November is March 27.
Late entries will close on May 15.
With most learners now opting to write as many as 15 subjects at O’ Level, parents have to fork out about $3 000 inclusive of the centre fees, which usually vary depending on the examination centre.
The new examination fees come against a background of the recent announcement by Government that the least paid civil servant will be getting $2 500 monthly salary, leaving most parents between a rock and hard place.
What has also irked parents is that most Government schools are paying fees of between $150 and $600 per term, yet a single subject is costing more than the school fees.
In an interview, Zimsec board chairman, Professor Eddie Mwenje, said the increase was cost-driven and they approved it after getting the necessary justification from the examination board’s management.
“Yes, the examination fees were reviewed. This comes after we did not review them last year. It is an expense to run an examination and we are cognisant of the fact that children should have a right to education.
“We operate under the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education so the announcement of new examination fees is announced in consultation with the parent ministry. Running of examinations includes the costs of the paper, ink, printing which is quite high, allowances and accommodation facilities for the markers as well as transportation of the examination papers across the country,” said Prof Mwenje.
He said as a way of cushioning parents, there was a proposal that learners can start paying their Grade 7 examination fees while still in Grade Six, Form Three for O’ Level and Form Five for A’ Level.
Human rights lawyer, Mr Passmore Nyakureba, said the fees were unjustified and urged Government to seriously look into the issue and address it.
“The right to education is about access not availability. It is counter-productive to have this astronomical hike at a time when most parents are struggling to make ends meet.
“This means many learners will not write or reduce the number of subjects they will sit for which is not fair. Children should be given a chance to choose the number of subjects they think they should write,” said Mr Nyakureba.
A parent, Mr Tungamirai Mupfigo, said the fees were beyond the reach of many.
“We are paying as little as $162 for our children at a Government school per term, but the examination fees for a single subject is way above that. We want the best out of our children, but most parents will find the going tough.
“The time given to parents to raise the fees is just short. Most parents are still recovering from paying the first term fees and others are still to finish and with this bombshell, this is just too much,” he said. The Herald