ZiG frustrations all round as schools open

The government has also threatened to come down hard on schools that are not accepting fees paid in the ZiG currency which has been struggling to stabilise against the greenback since its introduction.

PARENTS and guardians preparing for today’s second-term schools opening say they endured a frustrating week as they struggled to source foreign currency to pay fees and to buy groceries and uniforms for their children.

Zimbabweans have been struggling to raise US dollar fees being demanded by schools in the wake of the introduction of the Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG) currency early last month with government clamping down on black market activities which have in the past supplied forex to many parents.

The government has also threatened to come down hard on schools that are not accepting fees paid in the ZiG currency which has been struggling to stabilise against the greenback since its introduction.

Many parents and guardians are stranded as most schools are demanding fees in foreign currency.

In a statement yesterday, Primary and Secondary Education secretary Moses Mhike said the ZiG was a legal tender for schools.

He said the ZiG should also be used for procuringgoods, services and assets, in the same way as the other currencies in the country’s currency basket.

“Therefore, school authorities are expected to abide by the pronouncement made by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe,” he said.

“Parents/guardians must be given an opportunity to pay in the currency of their choice, and not exclusively in a certain currency and especially the USD in particular.

“For parents and guardians paying fees in ZiG, they must pay at the prevailing interbank rate of the day the transaction is made. The Ministry will continue to work with other government agencies, such as the Zimbabwe Anti- Corruption Commission, Financial Intelligence Unit, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, as well as the internal inspectorate of the Ministry to ensure compliance,” he said.

Mhike also reiterated the government’s call that schools should not send children home for non-payment of fees and levies.

“Furthermore, parents and guardians are free to purchase uniforms and stationery wherever they find it affordable as long as they adhere to the specifications set by the schools,” he said.

Parents who spoke to NewsDay yesterday, however, said the preparations ahead of schools opening had been frustrating.

Michelle Nyale said the main challenge was paying school fees for their children.

“We get paid in ZiG at our workstations, but we are paying fees in US dollars and most tuck shops where we usually acquire foodstuffs and other basic groceries are demanding payments in foreign currency,” she said.

“For the time being the USD currency has more prominence over the ZiG and if you don’t have foreign currency, you will be frustrated,” she said.

Nyale said they were uncertain if schools would accept the ZiG because there has been no feedback from authorities although most parents had paid the fees in US dollars.

There have also been indications that schools are reluctant to regularise their point-of-sale machines to facilitate ZiG transactions, forcing many parents to hunt for the US dollar on the parallel market.

However, the clampdown on forex dealers has also complicated preparations for opening day.

Another parent Simukai Mupanga said the challenges have now become very common when schools open.

“Most mini tuck shops are not accepting any form of transaction in terms of ZiG. We also had an issue with groceries, although we managed to get some of them from supermarkets as we were able to swipe in the new currency,” he said.

“I have never come across the ZiG and it has made our lives difficult as parents when it comes to the issue of paying school fees.

“The school fees are high, but it is a matter of sacrifice. We are just hopeful that they will accept payment of fees in ZiG at the interbank rate as they were doing all these years.”

Meanwhile, teacher organisations also expressed their unwillingness to go back to work owing to poor remuneration and conditions of service.

They told NewsDay that they will not relent from their threats of job action because they feel discriminated against by their employer.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou said teachers have never been ready to go back to school.

“The government has either been lethargic in attempts to improve salaries and conditions of service, or it may not be interested in giving anything meaningful to its workers at all.

“Realistically, many teachers have no money to travel back to their various stations, let alone to pay fees for their own children,” Zhou said.

Zimbabwe Teachers Union secretary general Goodwill Taderera said: “What we expect from the government is an incremental approach, not just keeping quiet. We also want non–monetary incentives. Going to report for duty is a question of teachers fearing threats and victimisation.”

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