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ZIMBABWE: Strong opposition to new education bill
August 12, 2005
- Stakeholders and trade unions in Zimbabwe's education sector say
proposals in the new Education Amendment Bill will cause a decline
in standards, and signal the end of private schools.
Representatives from the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA),
the Association of Trust Schools (ATS) and the Progressive Teachers
Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) presented their submissions to parliament's
portfolio committee for education, which held a public hearing on
the proposed amendments on Thursday.
The changes would give the minister the power to prescribe fees
and school uniforms, and determine which affiliations teachers could
join. Unions said this was an infringement of freedoms guaranteed
in Zimbabwe's constitution as well as by international statutes.
"If this Bill passes through parliament in its present form, half
of our schools would be closed by mid-next year," said a lawyer
representing the 500-member ATS.
The schools also argued that the additional bureaucracy involved
in determining fees would result in delayed or backdated increments,
which would affect the standard and quality of education. As an
example they cited last week's 1,000 percent tuition fee increase
at all government schools, backdated to January this year.
ATS pointed out that the Bill did not compel the minister to consider
the prevailing economic situation when determining school fees.
The official Herald newspaper quoted ZIMTA spokesman Peter Mabhande
as saying that requiring all teachers to have professional qualifications
was short-sighted, because such qualifications were not necessary
for teaching sports and other extra-curricula activities.
Raymond Majongwe, chairman of the PTUZ, told IRIN his organisation
rejected the Bill, adding that they were particularly angered by
the minister's desire to interfere with teachers' union affiliations.
"It is clear that government wants to tell teachers which union
to belong to. This is like trying to erase the diversity in our
schools by prescribing one common uniform; it is a serious violation
of the children's, the parents' and the teachers' rights to make
their own choices," he commented to IRIN.
"Government cannot be allowed to direct affairs in private schools
- enough damage has already been done in the public education sector
under the same ministry, and we should never allow the same rot
to extend into private schools," Majongwe remarked. "That would
kill the private schools, which are our last hope for quality education
and truly free instruction."
Chitungwiza MP Fidelis Mhashu, chairman of portfolio committee on
education, admitted to IRIN that most stakeholders were against
the Bill passing through parliament in its present form.
Education, Sport and Culture Minister Aneas Chigwedere told IRIN
that proposals by stakeholders would be considered on the day the
Bill returned to parliament.
Zimbabwe's education system, once regarded as one of the best in
Africa, has suffered in the fallout from the persistent economic
The government recently prohibited all schools from hiking fees
arbitrarily, despite hyperinflation. A fee-regulating structure
was established and schools have had to apply for government clearance
before altering their charges.
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