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Bill seeks to empower minister to set private school fees
The Herald (Zimbabwe)
May 24, 2005

The Minister 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 a member.

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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