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ZIMBABWE: New Bill will extend state control of education
August 09, 2005
- Opposition parliamentarians and trade unionists in Zimbabwe are
warning that a proposed Education Bill may be the first step in
an attempt by the government to nationalise schools.
The recently introduced Education
Act Amendment Bill, among other things, seeks to give the minister
of education, sport and culture the power to determine school fees
at private and state schools.
Edward Mkhosi, an opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
legislator, claimed the proposed bill would undermine the education
system. "The sector needs an upgrading of standards - any school
taken over by the government will end up limping along like the
parastatals. We will do everything to oppose it," Mkhosi told IRIN.
Secretary-general of the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe,
Raymond Majongwe, said the Bill also undermined the rights of educators
because the minister would be able to prescribe which trade unions
they could join.
"It is unbelievable that government wants to decide which association
teachers should belong to. We have no problems with the minister
prescribing and vetting the qualifications of teachers, but which
country has ever taken over the business of deciding which associations
citizens can join?" Majongwe asked.
Education minister Aneas Chigwedere countered these arguments, saying
the purpose of the proposed law was to improve educational standards
and make better education more readily available to poorer communities.
"Access to education has not been uniform in this country - some
students are privileged, yet many are not. There is a need to have
one education system in this country. We will not fail to maintain
the high standards we have achieved, because these processes would
be strictly managed," Chigwedere told IRIN.
The government had no intention of controlling teacher trade unions,
he added, but wanted to bring some "order within the trade union
A public parliamentary committee hearing will also take place, to
allow the public to voice their concerns.
In the past few years the government has closed down private schools
after allegations of racism and clashes over increases in tuition
fees, accusing private schools of charging exorbitant rates to shut
out poor black students and preserve the privileged position of
white children and those from the black middle class.
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