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seeks to empower minister to set private school fees
May 24, 2005
of Education, Sport and Culture will soon be responsible for prescribing
school fees and levies for private schools if Parliament approves
a Bill to amend the Education Act.
The Education Amendment Bill, which was gazetted last Friday, makes
it specific that the responsible minister would set fees and levies
charged by non-government schools in a Statutory Instrument.
The Bill seeks to amend the Education Act by updating and correcting
certain anomalies that came to the attention of the ministry in
the principal Act.
Also gazetted is the General Laws and Amendment Bill of 2005 that
seeks to make relatively minor amendments to various Acts of Parliament.
Under the Education Amendment Bill, there is a clause that gives
the Permanent Secretary power to fix the fees or levies to be charged
by a responsible authority after considering an application from
the school concerned.
The Bill provides penalties to be meted out on a school that defies
the fee stipulations and there is provision for a fine equivalent
to the excess amount charged.
The new Bill also provides for the establishment of a School Parents
Assembly for every school which would, in turn, elect a school development
committee vested with the control and management of the financial
affairs of the school.
The assembly would be composed of parents whose children would be
attending that school.
The minister, under the Bill, has powers to prescribe qualifications
of all teachers to be employed in non-government schools.
The Bill also gives the Secretary power to vet the qualifications
of all teachers to be employed by non-government schools and direct
any responsible authority to terminate services of any teacher who
is not properly qualified.
This provision was necessitated by the fact that some non-government
schools were employing teachers who were experienced in certain
sporting activities without holding the necessary professional qualifications.
The Bill also proposes the drawing-up of regulations by the minister
to govern the conduct and behaviour of all teachers who are not
members of the Public Service and such regulations shall prevail
over any other regulations, contract, rules or code of conduct.
There is a new provision for the teaching of all the three main
languages of Zimbabwe — English, Shona and Ndebele — and such other
local languages in all schools on an equal time basis.
Prior to Form One, any of these languages may be used as the medium
of instruction, the choice depending on the language which is better
understood by the pupils.
There is also a clause that sign language shall be the priority
medium of instruction for the deaf. The measure is designed to cater
for the diverse needs throughout the country.
The Bill proposes the recognition of more than one association of
teachers. This has been necessitated by the realisation that other
associations have emerged and there is need to recognise them.
Last year, the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture closed 45
private schools that had increased fees by more than 10 percent
without the approval of the Secretary for Education in contravention
of the regulations.
The schools were ordered to revert to old fee structures which they
argued were not economically viable.
The dispute ended up in courts and the private schools sought an
order at the High Court to charge and collect fees that parent bodies
and school authorities deem to be viable.
The High Court granted the order, which meant that the private schools
would be able to charge and collect the fees they set themselves
in consultation with their parent bodies.
Under the General Laws Amendment Bill, the President would be required
to publish, for the sake of transparency, in the Government Gazette
the pensions benefits payable to judges and acting judges of the
High Court and Supreme Court.
The Bill also provides 180 days as the life span of the Presidential
Powers (Temporary Measures) Act, which has generally been thought
as six months.
There is a proposal to amend the Defence Act to provide for an appeal
directly to the Supreme Court when a military court has sentenced
The State Procurement Board, under the Bill, would now meet at least
twice a week rather than on ad-hoc basis as at present in order
to dispatch its business.
The amendment arose following complaints by stakeholders over delays
in the adjudication of tenders by the board.
Reasons cited were that the board did not meet regularly; and even
when it met, it could not complete its business because of the sheer
volume of work.
There would also be the use of the word "Secretary" instead of "Permanent
Secretary" as has been the norm, to introduce consistency between
the Acts and use the term which in Zimbabwe describes the Civil
Service head of a ministry.
Both Bills would be tabled before Parliament for deliberation when
the august House sits next month.
They are expected to pass with or without amendments.
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