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Reject Chigwedere's Bill
The Financial Gazette
August 18, 2005
UP until a decade
ago, Zimbabwe's education system was the envy of many a country across
the world. It enjoyed the crème de la crème status. And
Enter Aeneas Chigwedere,
the bungling Minister of Education, whose actions even the best brains
in this country have failed to understand, and it is a different story
Thanks to the minister's
arrogance and conceit, the education system has been plunged into a state
of disorder and confusion. The situation is so bad that not even the fractious
and irascible government spin-doctors can defend Chigwedere other than
point to what seems to be local education's obvious merit - the increased
number of people going through it and not necessarily the quality that
it produces. That is why we have always said that Chigwedere must go because
when it comes to educationists Zimbabwe is spoilt for choice.
First, it was the
examination debacle where pupils reportedly studied the wrong set books
or syllabi and even received results for subjects they did not sit for.
How in God's name this could possibly happen beats us. Not to mention
the fact that candidates for the Ordinary and Advanced Level examinations
are not always registered on time, a situation the scapegoating education
officials have blamed on, of all things, drought. Or having these exams,
as happened this year, postponed because the truck carrying the examination
papers was supposed to have been hijacked by robbers in South Africa.
The list is endless.
Suffice to say that the public's confidence in the country's erstwhile
credible education system is badly shaken. This is hardly surprising because
this is an issue of legitimate public concern. Which is why almost all
stakeholders, concerned with the need to protect the integrity and credibility
of the country's education system, have added their voices to the chorus
of complaints about the terrifyingly swift decline in standards in this
very important sector.
As if that was not
enough, Chigwedere, whose antics have not only been singularly destructive
but whose consequences will be felt for a long time to come, has come
up with the Education Amendment Bill 6, 2005 which is currently being
debated in Parliament. If this Bill in its current form sails through,
and perish the thought, the seal of death is at that moment set on private
and mission schools - the rare or only shaft of light amidst the ruins
of what was once a quality system of education.
Indeed there are only
two ways of killing the private schools. One is just to close them down.
And the other is for Zimbabwe to accept the Chigwedere-sponsored Bill.
Among other things, the retrogressive Bill seeks to empower the minister
to prescribe fees for the private schools, to deregister them and to formulate
the code of conduct for teachers.
Now we are not going
to waste time trying to second-guess what motivated this Bill, which does
not create even a remote semblance of a false impression of novelty. Chigwedere's
misplaced hatred for these private schools is a matter of public record,
given his frontal attack on the schools. He started by instilling the
fear of God in the heads of these schools who had been targets of unjustified
rhetoric after they refused to yield to the minister's arm-twisting tactics
to force them to reduce school fees to unsustainable levels.
As we have said before,
he seems to believe that such schools are a bastion of capitalistic privilege
and racial discrimination. Yet nothing could be further from the truth
because the majority of the children at these schools are black. And the
evidence is there for all to see. Indeed it is our considered view that
these schools have a critical stabilising influence in the troubled education
sector given that there are no functional libraries, laboratories, recreational
facilities, not to mention the debilitating acute shortage of teachers
at most public schools.
assurances that the government would take over the private schools are
of very little, if any comfort. This is nothing but an empty declaration.
The capacity just isn't there. The cash-strapped government simply does
not have the financial wherewithal to run the mission and private schools.
This is why it has scaled down on its services to the public as can be
seen from the disastrous condition of all public institutions in Zimbabwe.
Or if it has the resources, why have they not been channelled towards
propping up collapsing public schools?
It is clear from the
foregoing that the Parliament of Zimbabwe should unequivocally reject
the Bill because if it is passed in its current form, it will have far-reaching
consequences for millions of school children on whose scholastic development,
the salvation of this great nation is dependent.
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