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reinvents same old laws to force his will on schools
August 09, 2005
HARARE – Zimbabwe
government ministers have over the years built a notorious reputation
of willfully ignoring the cries of the poor and powerless in society.
Even in the
face of strong popular rejection of their policies by the long-suffering
Zimbabweans, government ministers have stubbornly rejected popular
sentiment, burying their heads in the sand.
ministers have come up with amendment after amendment, patching
up the statute books and the constitution in their image whenever
they realised it did not suit their hazy vision.
this trend is not new.
Faced with a
vibrant university which held several successful demonstrations
against his government, President Robert Mugabe came up with the
University of Zimbabwe Amendment Act in 1992 which virtually castrated
serious student activism at the campus.
In 2000, faced
with the biggest challenge to his grip on power, Mugabe drastically
rebaptised the colonial and notorious Law and Order Maintenance
Act as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) to stifle emerging
political opposition in the form of the Movement for Democratic
Act bans Zimbabweans from gathering in groups of more than three
to discuss politics without police permission.
to deal with a vibrant, questioning press, the government came up
with a new law – the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy
to silence dissent.
Now Mugabe is
redirecting his ire at schools which embarrassed his government
in the courts last year as they resisted government interference
in the running of the institutions.
Amendment Bill set to be tabled in Parliament soon, has given credence
to charges that his government wants to extend its iron grip over
Zimbabwe's deteriorating education system.
Last year, Education
Minister Aeneas Chigwedere sought to control fees charged by private
schools in the country. He lost the battle in the courts.
provoked the ire of parents when he sought to introduce one set
of uniform for all schools. There was a public hullabaloo over the
move forcing the minister to backtrack.
through the Education Amendment Bill has brought back the same conditions
through the back door.
critics argue, impinge on the rights of both church-run and private
schools to recruit staff of their own choice giving the Minister
powers to determine who can be employed by these schools.
The draft law
will empower the Minister to determine the school uniforms children
should wear and what associations teachers should belong to.
lawyers have criticised the proposed amendments saying they impinge
on some provisions of the Convention of the Rights of Children and
the African Charter on the Rights of the Child.
of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) says the proposed
Bill, if passed into law, will effectively deny children the right
to be enrolled at a school of their choice.
raises concerns coming as it does after government closed 46 schools
in its bid to control school fees in contravention of the provisions
of that Charter which it ratified," Nyamurundira said.
Bill seeks to punish schools that fail to comply with the government's
directives on school fees and levies by arbitrarily placing the
school under direct management of the education ministry.
defy the government directives on fees risk being de-registered
while any excess amount collected in fees will be forfeited to the
Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary general Raymond Majongwe
says his union is peeved by the proposed amendments.
The trade unionist
said the proposed amendments were nothing more than "the ministry's
misplaced desire to extend needless control over the running of
schools in the country."
have become a norm in this country whenever a minister feels enfeebled
by current legislation. The new Labour Bill even bans teachers from
becoming members of a trade union," he said.
the education ministry of failing to keep its fingers on the nation's
pulse as shown by the widespread sexual abuse of students at a Macheke
"We are not
arguing that the ministry should not have some control but too much
of it is uncalled for. The ministry should address the serious crisis
in education sector rather than seek to control who private and
church run schools employ."
a historian and former school head himself, could not be reached
for comment on his draft Bill.
system once the envy of the region, is almost on its knees after
thousands of trained teachers fled the economic meltdown back home.
teachers, who are poorly remunerated, make up an unmotivated workforce
in poorly equipped schools, with virtually no solution in sight.
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