The back-to-school hustle will be upon us soon. The festive season is almost in full swing. If only I had a way to pay my children’s school fees before I burn it all on Christmas. Schools are closed. I can’t access my bank because I’m on holiday. This is every parent’s dilemma; the fear of the so-called January disease
BY MUNYARADZI NYAKWAWA .
To make matters worse, recently it was reported in the Press that “the average incomes for Zimbabwe have declined to $134 in 2014 from $143 in 2011, meaning more people are sliding into poverty”.
We are facing poverty but, as parents, we would want our children to have the best education. Schools would not want to send away pupils over non-payment of fees; however, they need the money to be able to run the school. The school should be run to the satisfaction of the parent and other stakeholders, yet it is the same parent who has not paid their fees.
It a messy vicious cycle that parents and schools are caught in and it’s not easy to get out. Thus, the need for innovative ways of collecting tuition fees.
Mobile money offers a win-win solution
The informal sector has become the biggest employer in Zimbabwe and in such industries, cash flows are not always as smooth as is in the formal sector. Add our poor savings culture to that, then there is a problem.
It is now imperative that schools introduce flexible payment plans to cater for poor parents who rely on informal employment and daily wages to pay school fees as and when they can.
Most tuition fees are affordable but when parents are asked to pay as a lump sum, it becomes a big challenge.
Imagine for a $30 fee for government school, a parent offers to pay $2,50 per week over the 12 week duration of the school term. Will the school accept that? How much ink will be used to print a receipt every week, how much time will accountants spend receipting and counting notes and coins? How much will the school lose if they refuse to accept the $2,50 fees per week?
With mobile money, parents are able to pay fees at their own convenience. Money is credited into the students account and a receipt will only be created when the full amount for that term is paid. Parents can even pre-pay while students are on holiday or as and when a lucrative deal has been concluded.
As such, the school is happy, the parent is happy and the student is not affected.
Mobile money provides unique opportunities in the education sector. It can be used to replace cash, thus bringing efficiency to school programmes by improving management.
Successful use of mobile money can increase opportunities for financial support from donors and non-governmental organisations. Mobile money can lay concrete on the way to developing more multifaceted systems that otherwise would not have been feasible in a cash environment.
School systems in Zimbabwe rely heavily on large volumes of cash transactions. This reliance on cash for financial transactions contributes to inefficiencies, enables leakage and carries security risks.
Mobile money can reduce transaction cost. How much money are parents using in order to access a bank to deposit the cash, or even to travel to the school to pay fees? How much time is wasted just to make that transaction?
Parent and/or guardian perspective
Mobile money can lower the financial hurdle of paying school fees and other services by increasing payment options. Mobile money for tuition fees will benefit parents who rely on informal employment and daily wages to pay tuition fees.
Parents can even open savings accounts on mobile that are specifically designed for school fees payments. In this way, the use of mobile money can lead to better financial management and, potentially, improved access to schools and guarantee our children’s education.
Mobile money payment platforms reduce transaction costs when compared to the prohibitive expense of face-to-face cash payments for fees.
There is no doubt that the current fees collection mechanisms in Zimbabwe are inefficient, inconvenient and time-wasting.
Inefficient mechanisms for fees collection are particularly problematic for stakeholders in remote and hard-to-reach areas, and affect the motivation and performance of the workforce in accounts departments as well as administration.
Payments through mobile money can save accountants and bursars the time and expense of travelling to nearby cities to find bank branches to deposit money in. The risk of carrying cash is also reduced through mobile payments.
Funds received through mobile money can be used to automatically pay creditors, salaries, stocks, books, services as well as to pay for additional incentives. This method of payment can decrease the administrative burden of cash payment as well as travel and security costs.
Mobile money offers schools the ability to receive fees payments that are timely and that can be audited. No cash in school allows administration staff time to concentrate on parents as they are their customers.
We will have less instances where school authorities divert funds for their personal use.
In Kenya, Bridge Academy that runs 300 schools, do not accept cash at all costs. Below is what they say;
“When I say we ‘integrate mobile money into our business,’ I don’t mean it lightly. Mobile money is the only type of payment Bridge accepts. Mobile money is how our students pay their school fees. It is how they pay for lunch. It is how our staff gets paid, how expenses are reimbursed, and how vendor invoices are processed. We don’t accept cash, period, and each of our 300+ academies has the ‘No Cash’ posters to prove it. But our use cases don’t end there. By taking cash out of the equation, mobile money eliminates most of the problems associated with cash payments, thereby helping us maintain our customer focus.”
It’s time Zimbabwe’s schools, colleges and universities considered mobile money as another convenient and secure way of taking tuition fees
l Munyaradzi Nyakwawa is a digital financial services consultant and financial inclusion analyst. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn