Fees at all public schools will be reduced next term to increase Zambians’ access to education, Minister of General Education David Mabumba said yesterday. Mr Mabumba said most schools cannot account for the money they collect from pupils as user fees.
He said the largest operational cost of any public school is payment of salaries, which is covered by Government. The minister said it is unacceptable that some schools in Lusaka charge as high as K500 per child. Mr Mabumba said this at State House yesterday when a cluster on enhancing human development presented a progress report to President Edgar Lungu.
This was after Vice-President Inonge Wina got concerned that prospective medical students are required to pay K300 for application forms at some training institutions. “We have discovered that there is abuse in schools. When we tour schools, they want us to take bags of cement and paint but they cannot account for the money they receive from pupils.
“In the second term, I will consult you [President Lungu] and the Vice-President. I will reduce fees to give relief to our people,” Mr Mabumba said.
The fees are used to buy basic school requirements like chalk, books and stationery.
Mr Mabumba also said Government has reduced fees for external Grade Nine pupils who write GCE examinations from K75 to K20 and the exam entry fee from K70 to K5.
He said external pupils write examinations with support from Government, hence the need to reduce fees to make them affordable.
And Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya said all training institutions have a small fee they charge for application forms.
Dr Chilufya said the Ministry of Health does not charge any fees for application forms and that he will engage the institutions which do so over the matter. Minister of Higher Education Nkandu Luo said the ministry is conducting an audit at higher learning institutions to regulate the amount of money students pay as tuition fees. Professor Luo said higher learning institutions should account for the money they receive from students by investing it in infrastructure and other projects.
“The minimum fees university students are paying are between K25,000 and K30,000 with nothing to show for in terms of new infrastructure. “Private universities that should ideally charge more, charge half [of what public universities charge] and are growing,” she said. Prof Luo said a recent audit by the ministry established that there are more ordinary workers at universities than lecturers, which she said should be dealt with. Meanwhile, President Lungu is concerned about the exorbitant amounts students pay for boarding houses. He directed Prof Luo to deal with the matter and ensure that such exploitative charges for boarding houses are reduced.