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Education Amendment Bill sails through House
The Herald (Zimbabwe)
February 15, 2006

Read Education Bill withdrawn

The Education Amendment Bill that seeks to provide for the charging of school fees and levies based on the consumer Price Index as published by the Central Statistics Office almost sailed through the House of Assembly yesterday.

The House agreed on most clauses of the proposed law except three clauses, which were deferred to today for further consideration.

Debate on the Bill dominated proceedings yesterday with the deliberations lasting for about four hours.

The contentious clauses were 3,5 and 7 which seek to amend interpretation of the section of the principal Act, procedures in applying for fee or levy increases and provisions for the constitution of a school parents assembly.

In his seconding reading speech, Education, Sport and Culture Minister Cde Aneas Chigwedere told the House that the Bill sort to correct certain anomalies that had come to the attention of the ministry.

He said provisions empowering the minister to prescribe the minimum qualifications of all teachers employed by all schools had been necessitated by the need to standardise the education system.

"Selection of staff at some private schools has racist overtones, they continue to employ their friends, kin and kith without the necessary qualifications," he said.

On School uniforms, Cde Chigwedere said there was provision empowering the minister to regulate their prices.

Turning to the proposals for the establishment of a School Services Fund by private schools, he said currently there were no guidelines on the utilisation of funds by such schools.

Such funds would be liable to audit by Government auditors.

The minister said the teaching of Zimbabwe’s three main languages – Shona, English and Ndebele – in all schools up to Form Two was meant to promote national unity.

Contributing to the debate, Chitungwiza MP and chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Education, Sport and Culture Mr Fidelis Mhashu commended the minister for coming up with a new consolidated text of the Bill. He hailed several provisions in the proposed law that included those empowering the minister to prescribe minimum qualifications for all teachers and on the need for private schools to work in conjunction with Government schools.

However, Mr Mhashu said administrative issues at private schools and the role of the school parents assembly should be left to respective school authorities.

"He (Cde Chigwedere) is sinking too low. He is going down to the schools as if he is a headmaster," he said.

Mr Mhashu said there was need for a complete overhaul of the education system in line with recommendations by Nziramasanga Commission.

The lawmaker said appeals for levies or school fees should be directed to the Administrative Court and not to the minister first as set out in the provisions.

Government Chief Whip Cde Joram Gumbo said a ballot system should be applied when parents would be voting on whether or not fees or levies should be increased since some of the parents were timid on such issues .

MDC Chief Whip and Mutare Central MP Mr Innocent Gonese said there was need to improve the education standards, which he said had deteriorated, particularly in Government schools.

In response, Cde Chigwedere said Government was already implementing recommendations of the Nziramasanga Commission and this included the proposals for the teaching of English, Shona and Ndebele up to Form Two.

He allayed fears by the lawmakers that there appeared to be too much bureaucracy in the application for fee or levy increases, saying these would be dealt with in an expeditious manner.

The minister said Government had no problem with the majority of the schools as experience had shown that only 64 trust schools had the habit of increasing fees to unacceptable levels.

Cde Chigwedere said he would consider the issue of applying the ballot system for parents to vote freely on whether or not fees or levies should be increased.

The Bill makes it mandatory for every school authority to apply to the Secretary of Education, Sports and Culture for approval before charging fee or levy.

The Secretary is in turn, obliged to approve the increase where such increase does not exceed the percentage increase in the cost of living from the beginning to the end of the preceding term as indicated by the CPI published by the Central Statistics Office.

School authorities should get approval of a majority of the parents at a meeting of the school parents assembly attended by not less than 20 percent of the parents.

Any responsible authority aggrieved by a decision of the Secretary may appeal to the minister who after due consideration may grant or refuse the appeal before fixing the appropriate fee or levy.

Those aggrieved by the decision of the minister may appeal to the Administrative Court.

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