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private schools to challenge constitutionality of new fee law
March 02, 2006
HARARE - Authorities
at Zimbabwe's private schools on Wednesday said they will challenge in
the courts the constitutionality of a new education law that gives the
government powers to determine school fees once President Robert Mugabe
signs it into effective legislation.
The Association of
Trust Schools (ATS) that represents privately-owned schools said in a
statement that the new law lacked "rational economic thinking"and
would create chaos in non-government schools that are run with fees paid
The ATS said it was
together with the Association of Church Education Secretaries (ACES) studying
the Education Amendment Bill
of 2005 that sailed through Parliament last Tuesday with a view to
approaching Mugabe to withhold his assent without which the law remains
If Mugabe however assents to the Bill, the ATS and the ACES will resort
to the courts to have the legality and constitutionality of the new law
reviewed by the bench.
"The ATS and the ACES are now carrying out a detailed study to assess
the impact of the two amendments to the more than 500 non-government schools
in order to alert the Presidency of the dangers of these two amendments
before Presidential assent and or to prepare for a Judicial review of
the constitutionality of the amendments if it becomes necessary,"
the statement signed by ATS chairman Jameson Timba read in part.
The ATS and ACES-run schools are the only sources of a good and reliable
education for young Zimbabweans as the country's once highly regarded
public schools crumble due to years of under-funding and mismanagement.
But Mugabe's government accuses the schools of taking advantage of their
good reputation to extort money from parents by charging exorbitant fees
and levies, which the government says is used to fund lavish lifestyles
for school executives.
The government last year forced several privately-run schools to close
and threatened to jail authorities there for refusing to lower fees. When
the matter was refereed to the High Court, it ruled that the government
had no right to set fees at private schools.
The controversial new law will now require all schools whether state owned
or not to first seek approval from the secretary of education before hiking
fees. The law also sets stringent conditions under which school authorities
may be allowed to increase fees or levies.
For example, under the new law, fee hikes should not exceed "the
percentage increase in the cost of living from the beginning to the end
of the preceding term as indicated by the Consumer Price Index published
by the Central Statistics Office".
The ATS says this and other requirements before fee hikes can be approved
under the new law are arbitrary and do not make economic sense because
"the cost structures of the more than 500 non-government schools
are not the same depending with location and type of boarding facilities
offered at each school."
Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere was not available for comment on
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