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ZANU PF legislators revolt against Chigwedere Bill
Njabulo Ncube, The Financial Gazette
August 18, 2005

ZANU PF legislators have revolted against Aeneas Chigwedere, the Minister of Education, Sport and Culture over proposed amendments to the Education Act that would give government virtual control over private schools.

Chigwedere, who has accused private schools of being a law unto themselves and running a parallel education system that discriminates against poorer pupils through what he deems unrealistic fees, seeks to fix school fees, oversee recruitment of staff and prescribe uniforms levies through the Bill.

The proposed amendments, however, drew vehement opposition from the majority of ZANU PF legislators this week, many of whom have children attending elite schools whose standards would be threatened by uneconomic fees.

Ruling party insiders said a parliamentary caucus had resolved not to support the proposed amendments.

"We indicated to (Patrick) Chinamasa (the leader of the House) during our caucus in no uncertain terms that we will not support the amendments in their present state," said a ZANU PF Politburo member, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"It was felt during caucus that he (Chigwedere) had not consulted widely and the amendments needed to be referred back to Cabinet," said the source.

Another source alleged that Chigwedere had not consulted the Politburo before rushing the proposed amendments to the Cabinet.

"He took it to Cabinet, which approved it before forwarding it to Parliament. However, Chigwedere has been left with egg all over his face because ZANU PF legislators are against it," added a ZANU PF Member of Parliament.

The ruling party legislators join a growing chorus of condemnation by private school trusts, teachers, labour movements and parents' associations who believe the amendment sounds the death knell for the country's already troubled education system.

Critics of the proposed law say the offending sections are not practical given that Chigwedere's ministry has previously failed to monitor and review fees at government schools.

Last week the influential Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA), Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) and the Associated Trust Schools (ATS) presented submissions critical of the proposed Bill to the parliamentary portfolio committee for education. ATS officials fear that if the Bill passes in its present state, half of the 61 schools registered with the pressure group face closure by mid-next year.

The justice, legal and parliamentary affairs portfolio committee, chaired by Shadreck Chipanga, the ZANU PF Member of Parliament for Makoni East, is expected to issue an adverse report on the Education Amendment Bill.

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