THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

Zimbabwe 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 by students.

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 ineffective.

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 the matter.

Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.