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Education Bill adopted after heated debate
The Herald (Zimbabwe)
March 01, 2006

THE House of Assembly yesterday adopted amendments made by the Upper House to the Education Amendment Bill after a heated debate as parliamentarians were divided over the contentious issue of school fees.

The Lower House was divided with 45 Zanu-PF lawmakers voting in favour of the adoption of the amendments and 25 MDC legislators opposing.

The Bill was read for the third time and it now awaits Presidential assent for it to become law.

It seeks to provide for the charging of fees and levies in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as published by the Central Statistical Office (CSO).

Presenting the amendments, Education, Sport and Culture Minister Cde Aeneas Chigwedere told the Lower House that the Senate had deleted Clause 5, 21 (1) of the Bill that stipulated that the provisions of the proposed law shall not apply to fees and levies existing on the day the amendment comes into effect.

Cde Chigwedere said adopting the amendment was tantamount to legalising the illegal high fees that were being charged by some trust schools.

Cde Chigwedere said it was surprising to note that some trust schools had increased fees well above the CPI yet they were the ones that had come up with the idea of linking the fee and levy increase to the index.

"Some schools took advantage of the fact that the Bill had not yet been enacted and hiked the fees and levies beyond the CPI. The fee hikes are illegal because the CPI at the end of November and December was known," he said.

Some of the amendments adopted by the Lower House that were approved by the Senate included provisos in Clause 5 giving guidelines for the increase of fees or levies in non-government schools.

Under the provisions, the Secretary for Education, Sport and Culture shall approve an increase of fees or levies if the increase is sought in respect of the next term of the non-government school concerned provided:

(a) it does not exceed the percentage increase in the cost of living from the beginning of the proceeding term as indicated by the CPI and CSO;

(b) the fees or levies for the day pupils who are provided with meals at the school are not more than 40 percent of the fees or levies paid by boarders; and

(c) the fees or levies for the day pupils who are not provided with meals at the school are not more than 30 percent of the fees or levies paid by the boarders.

Cde Chigwedere said the amendments had been necessitated by the need to guard against a situation in which day school pupils would be made to subsidise boarders, as there must be a margin of difference in the fees or levies paid.

Contributing to the debate, MDC Chief Whip and Mutare Central MP Mr Innocent Gonese said the amendments by the Senate would create mayhem in the administration of schools, as some would have to reduce the fees or levies in line with the CPI and CSO.

"That will cause havoc in the smooth running of the schools. We will be creating undue hardships for the schools," he said.

His sentiments were echoed by Chitungwiza MP Mr Fidelis Mhashu (MDC), who is also the chairperson of the Parliamentary portfolio committee on Education, Sport and Culture, who said there was no rationale for the Upper House to repeal some of the amendments made by the Lower House.

The opposition lawmaker wanted to know what formula Cde Chigwedere had applied in order to determine the percentage gap between the fees and levies paid by day pupils and boarders.

In response, Cde Chigwedere said experience had shown that most trust schools did not spend 40 percent of their fees on teaching, hence the need to prescribe the percentage increase in the fees or levies paid by day and boarding pupils.

"If we remove the amendments, some schools are going to charge the day and boarding pupils the same fees - which is not fair.

"This is a vital amendment and I urge our members to support it," he said.

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