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Memories

2004-06 Press Reports Regarding School Fees

The Herald
2 April 2004
Police descend on school heads
By Tsitsi Matope

Police have quizzed and charged 32 headmasters of private schools who allegedly increased fees and levies without approval by the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture. The headmasters are expected to appear in court as soon as police finalise their investigations. Police yesterday said they are charging the heads of Arundel, Bishopslea, St George's College, Heritage, Eaglesvale, Gateway High and Primary, St John's College and Preparatory, Chisipite Senior and Junior and Lusitania schools, from Harare, with breaching the Education Act.

In other parts of the country the schools are Hillcrest College in Manicaland, Barwick Primary in Mashonaland Central, Peterhouse and Watershed in Mashonaland East, Rydings and Bryden Primary, Lomagundi College and Lilfordia in Mashonaland West, and Kyle High and Primary schools and Riverton Academy in Masvingo. Carmel Primary, Dominican Convent and Petra College in Matabeleland North, Falcon College in Matabeleland South and Midlands Christian College complete the first list.
The action against the heads of these private schools follows the suspension of almost 70 heads of Government schools whose school development associations raised levies without obtaining approval from the ministry. It is known that many disciplinary hearings have been heard but the results have not been made public. Hearings are conducted by the Public Service Commission, not the ministry.

The Zimbabwe Teachers' Association yesterday criticised both high fees charged and the delays in the ministry making decisions when schools apply for approval of new fees or levies. The association called for negotiations by all stakeholders to resolve the issue. Zimta secretary-general Mr Dennis Sinyolo yesterday said his association does not support the stance taken by some schools to increase fees and levies. "This promotes segregation among students. We believe education and access to education is a basic human right and the situation must be corrected," Mr Sinyolo said. But from an analysis his association had carried out, it was clear, he said, that not all headmasters wilfully or unilaterally increased fees. "The Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture is also to blame at some instances where the schools had sought authority in writing and the paperwork was delayed by the ministry."

Mr Sinyolo said the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture should know that not only the headmasters were involved in increasing school fees and levies. "School development associations and other committees are also consulted before fee increases are approved and effected," he said. Mr Sinyolo said all stakeholders should come together and find an amicable way of resolving the matter through negotiations.

Although the school governors set fees at private schools and school development associations set the levies at Government schools, the Education Act lays the burden on the head, hence the ministry and police action against these heads. Many schools have been holding meetings in recent days and weeks to seek parental approval for new fees and levies for next term. The figures being mentioned are significantly above the amounts that have led to the suspension and charges against school heads this term. At least five schools have achieved 100 per cent approval from parents at these meetings while others have achieved votes in excess of 90 per cent. The small minorities have cited affordability as the reason for their dissent. Parents at some schools are known to be organising referendums, without the involvement of school authorities, to gauge the feelings of all parents, including those who did not attend meetings. Others are considering taking direct action to persuade the ministry that what their school applies for is what they want.

Since the early 1980s the ministry responsible for primary and secondary education has demanded detailed budgets from boards of governors or school development associations before considering whether to approve increases in fees at private schools or levies at Government schools. But it has almost always gone along with what was applied for once satisfied that a significant majority of parents agreed, or at least did not disagree. Government and local government schools were forbidden to close their gates to children whose parents did not pay the levies. Only this term has the policy changed. This term a minority of schools affected in the list of about 100 where action has been taken did not apply. Most who applied have received no answer and assumed that this meant the ministry did not disagree, as was the case in the past. A few did receive either approval or had a directive to reduce the fee or levy applied for.


The Sunday Mail
4 April 2004
Private schools continue to defy State
Sunday Mail Reporters

Most private schools have continued to defy the Government directive that they should not raise fees without the approval of the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture. It emerged last week that several private schools around the country have significantly hiked fees for the second term despite the fact that some of the schools' headmasters are facing prosecution for failing to comply with the Government directive.

Documents at hand show that a private school in Marondera, Peterhouse, will increase its fees to about $10 million per term for boarders from the $5,5 million they paid for the first term. In a circular to parents, the chairman of the school's executive committee and former Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe board member, Mr Stuart Mattinson, said the school board had proposed that day scholars pay $7 million for the second term. Mr Mattinson said it had been proposed that Springvale House boarders pay $6,9 million from $3,8 million while the day scholars will have to pay $4,2 million, up from $2,3 million. Springvale is Peterhouse's primary school.

Parents who spoke to The Sunday Mail complained that the school's board was unilaterally hiking fees and urged the Government to take action. "There is no consultation whatsoever. I think there is a well-calculated plan to push some children out of the school and this should not be allowed to happen. My employers pay for my child's fees but they have indicated that the will not afford the new fees. This means that I might have to look for another school," said one parent.

Another parent said the board could not justify the new fees of $7 million for a day scholar, adding that the school had threatened that it would withdraw some facilities if parents refused to ratify the new fees. "We have been told that the school will reduce the choice of subjects offered and that there will be a significant reduction in extra-curricular activities if we do not approve the fees. We feel this is a threat to force us to accept the fees and this is not fair," he said.

A storm is also brewing at Eaglesvale College in Harare, where a massive fees hike is looming. The school wants to increase fees from $2,4 million to $3,6 million with effect from next term. Inquiries made with several other schools revealed that massive fees hikes are in the offing for the second term as school authorities continue to ignore Government directives not to increase fees without approval. Meanwhile, Eaglesvale High School headmaster Mr Kenneth McKean, one of the private school heads who were handed over by the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture to the police for unlawfully increasing school fees, has been charged and will appear in court soon, police have said.

The ministry's public relations officer, Mr Beredias Nyanhete, confirmed that while the ministry had suspended heads at Government schools over the increased fees, their counterparts in the private sector had been handed over to police because the ministry could not effect suspension as they are paid by their schools. Police say the heads are being charged for breaching the Education Act.

Responding to a question from a parent on why the board sought to increase fees when the head had just been suspended over the increases, at a meeting held at the school a fortnight ago where it was announced that the schools fees had been increased by 50 percent from $2 450 000, the chairman of the school board, Mr Ant Dry, said that the school head had not been suspended. "As far as we are concerned the headmaster is on leave and has not been suspended," said Mr Dry.

When police went to the school on Wednesday to pick the head, they were told he was on leave and sources say they wanted to take in the deputy for questioning. But a parent with two sons at the school said the ministry was acting inappropriately by suspending or handing over school heads to police over the fee increases as they had little or no say in these matters as such decisions were made by the school boards. "It is wrong for the ministry to suspend or charge heads. Most of these are just window dressers as they have little to do with such decisions. The real culprits are the school boards who represent the owners of the school," said the parent.

In a related development parents with children at Barwick Primary School, also a private school in the prime farming area of Concession, are up in arms with the school board for increasing school fees in a move they claim is set to get them out. The fees have been increased from $3 million to $5,5 million next term. The parents, who spoke to this paper in separate interviews, say the school, which was originally set up as an exclusive school for the white farmers' children, but who had their farms designated, was frustrating them by trying to increase fees to "unacceptable levels".

"The owners of the school, some of whom used to farm in this area and have since left the country, are pushing us out. It is clearly vindictive for them to increase fees willy-nilly like that. The truth of the matter is that these people are bitter. Some of the school board members are not even resident in this country. They are running these schools from outside," said Ms Samantha Chirandu, who has a son at the school.

Another parent who refused to be named said there was no justification for the school to increase fees as the children are weekly boarders who only come to school on Mondays and stay there until mid-day on Fridays. "The children are only at the school on Monday mornings and they have lunch and supper for that day. The other days are full board but on Fridays, they only have breakfast then we pick them up for the weekend. The school does not do laundry for the children but they have the audacity to increase fees. When I queried this I was told telephone charges had gone up and I am at a loss to know if telephoning is part of the learning process for my child," said the parent.

Parents at the school say the fees increase is a clear move to frustrate and force them out of the school. They called on the ministry to investigate the composition of school boards at private schools, as these were the people who make the decisions on fee hikes.


Probe Into Schools Complete: Chigwedere
The Herald (Harare)
April 22, 2004

THE inquiry into the conduct of 70 heads of Government and private schools who allegedly increased fees and levies without Government approval at the beginning of last term is now complete, the Minister of Education, Sport and Culture, Cde Aeneas Chigwedere, said yesterday. The ministry is now working on a determination of the inquiry and would come up with a decision soon. "Through the determination, we shall decide on the penalties to be given the school heads. The process should be complete by next week," he said. Cde Chigwedere would not disclose the kind of penalty they would mete out on the heads, but said the schools should, with immediate effect, revert to the fees of December 2003 and start negotiating from there. Only those schools whose proposals to increase fees had been approved could go ahead and charge higher fees, he said.

The Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture suspended more than 70 school heads pending disciplinary hearings after they increased levies without Government approval last term. Schools now need written approval from the ministry before they can increase levies by more than 10 percent. Cde Chigwedere said he intended to resolve problems to do with school levies before the second term commences in a few weeks. He urged parents who continued to face the problem of schools increasing levies without Government approval to report to his ministry, saying the ministry was at the service of the parents. "We are fighting for them. Most of the information we have, we get from them. They should continue working with us," he said.

Cde Chigwedere said private schools which continued to increase levies without approval risked closure. He said it had come to his attention that some private schools had sent to parents invoices for the second term which indicated a further increase in levies over and above those charged for the first term. This is despite the fact that private schools that defied the Government by increasing fees without its approval were handed over to the police for prosecution.

The police have since quizzed and charged 32 headmasters of private schools with breaching the Education Act. The heads are still to appear in court. Under such circumstances, Cde Chigwedere said, he was left with no option but to direct that provincial education directors to submit to the ministry's permanent secretary the list of all private schools under their jurisdiction that had no authority to raise their levies by next week. "These schools will not be allowed to reopen and this is something we will stand by. We are quite serious about it," Cde Chigwedere said.

He said the issue was being treated as a matter of urgency. "All private schools that have not received authorisation to raise fees and levies, even those for the first term, should revert to the December 2003 fees and levies," he said. Like Government schools, they should start negotiating from that position, he said.

The school fees saga has been raging since last term with some parents saying the ministry was taking too long to act. They accused the ministry of issuing empty threats while fees and levies continued to go up. Some private schools have already communicated to parents that despite the pressure they are being subjected to by the ministry, they had no option but to increase levies. Some schools have proposed to increase levies to around $8 million a term. Other parents have, however, come out in support of the levy increases, saying they were prepared to pay for their children to enjoy the best educational standards.


VOA
Zimbabwe Police Order Some Private Schools Not to Reopen
Peta Thornycroft
Harare 03 May 2004, 16:12 UTC

Zimbabwe police have told a number of private schools not to reopen Tuesday after Easter holidays. The private schools are accused of hiking fees without prior government permission. A principal of a leading private high school near Harare says he was visited by police and told to keep his doors shut at the start of the second term, or semester. Principals of at least six schools in country's second city, Bulawayo, say they were consulting with lawyers on the same issue.

School fees at both government and private schools have gone up by large amounts, and principals at some government schools have already been dismissed for increasing fees. Most private schools have increased fees by up to 75 percent since January. There are 38 private schools in Zimbabwe, and all but one or two are run as not-for-profit trusts. The private schools have about 20,000 students, most of them the children of professionals, the middle class, and the political elite, mostly from the ruling ZANU PF Party. Among them are President Robert Mugabe's three children.

One school principal, speaking on condition that neither he nor his school was identified, says most school governing bodies regularly apply to the Department of Education to increase fees. He says they seldom if ever receive replies. This principal says that if the police continue to order that schools be kept shut, then private schools would go to the courts seeking relief. Another school principal says he has already had to go to his local police station where he has been warned he would be charged.

A third principal, outside of Harare, said he believed the government's crackdown was a political gimmick before parliamentary elections scheduled for early next year. He said there was no alternative to increasing fees. He said staff salaries consumed 70 percent of budgets and that retaining qualified staff was the biggest challenge facing private schools.

The Department of Education had no officials available for comment.

THE AFFECTED SCHOOLS
Harare
Gateway Primary, Gateway Secondary, Chisipite Senior, Arundel Girls, Heritage Primary, Heritage Secondary, Bishopslea, Tynwald High, Ridgeview High, Tynwald Primary, St Michael Prep, Eaglesvale Primary, Eaglesvale High, Hellenic Primary, Sharon School, Twin Rivers Primary, Lusitania Primary, Hartman House, St George's College, St John's Preparatory, St John's College

BULAWAYO
Camel, Bulawayo Adventist Secondary, Christian Brothers' College, Petra High, Petra Primary, Masiyepambili Secondary

MASHONALAND CENTRAL
Barwick Primary

MASHONALAND EAST
Ariel Primary, Lendy Park Primary, Peterhouse Boys, Peterhouse Girls, Springvale House, Ruzawi Primary, Watershed College

MASHONALAND WEST
Lomagundi College Primary, Lomagundi College Secondary, Rydings Primary, Bryden Primary, Lilfordia Primary

MANICALAND
Hillcrest Primary, Hillcrest Secondary Masvingo Kyle College, South East College

MATABELELAND SOUTH
Falcon College

The Herald
4 May 2004
By Beatrice Tonhodzayi
State shuts down 45 private schools

THE showdown between the Government and private schools intensified yesterday as Government toughened its stance and began shutting down some private boarding schools that had opened ahead of today’s start to the second school term, for increasing school fees without its approval.
About 30 000 children are affected.

Police officers were yesterday deployed to 45 private schools throughout the country that had allegedly refused to abide by the Government’s order not to increase school fees, to ensure that these schools do not open for classes today. Boarders at some of these schools were turned away when they arrived for the new school term and those who had moved in at the weekend were picked up by their parents yesterday. Police chief spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena yesterday confirmed that the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture had furnished the police with a list of the schools that it said had not conformed with its requirements.

The Education Act, which governs the operations of schools in the country, stipulates that no responsible authority of a non-Government school may charge a fee, or increase a fee by more than the prescribed amount, without seeking approval from the Secretary for Education. The maximum increase in the absence of approval is 10 percent a year, but most private schools have continued to disregard this regulation, arguing that this fell far short of the cost of providing a decent education and maintaining school facilities. In Harare, some private schools had by yesterday evening heeded the call not to reopen until they come to an agreement with Government over the fees and levies to be charged. However, others opened their doors and boarders could be seen settling in after police officers had left the premises.

At St George’s College, parents could be seen dropping off their children late yesterday afternoon, while St John’s College in Borrowdale remained closed. A notice at the entrance at St John’s College advised parents that the school was closed following a Government directive that it remains shut until further notice.

At Bishopslea staff were turning away boarders, telling them that the school had been closed despite the fact that the school had fixed no fee nor sent out any invoices and was still waiting for the ministry to reply to its application. Parents blocked from entering school premises yesterday afternoon after police moved in were generally angry at the move. Many of these parents were coming to pay the new fees before the rush today and said they should have the right to pay for the facilities offered by the schools. They said they had agreed to the increases and saw no reason why they should not be allowed to pay. Some parents with children in private schools said it was unfair for the Government to close down schools when they had already paid the new higher fees. They said it would have been better if lessons had been allowed to go on while the issue was being resolved. "We have already paid the fees and levies being demanded. So what happens to our money now?" said one parent.

Many parents phoned the Herald to find out whether the schools that their children attend would be affected. Most were extremely vehement in opposition or support of the move. While those who opposed voiced similar concerns to those blocked from paying fees yesterday, others said they were in support of the latest action by the Minister of Education, Sport and Culture, Cde Aeneas Chigwedere, saying it was "high time" he acted in such a "decisive manner". They said for a long time, private schools had ceased to take notice of what the minister said, giving the impression that they viewed his directives as "empty threats". Despite Government having stated at the beginning of the year that schools should not raise fees and levies without its written approval, some schools, including those run by the Government, continued to increase the fees. While expressing regret that pupils of the affected schools would have to miss lessons, Cde Chigwedere yesterday remained resolute that the schools would not be opened until they complied with Government regulations. He said private schools were governed by the laws of Zimbabwe and, as such, should abide by those laws if they wanted to stay in operation.

Several schools have said that they have not had their fee proposals either accepted or rejected, some for several terms. On these allegations that the ministry was taking too long to respond to proposals to hike fees, Cde Chigwedere said these were "outright lies". He said, under the Education Act, schools were only allowed to apply for authority to increase fees once a year. They are supposed to apply once. If they need an adjustment in the middle of the year, they have to justify why. As far as I am concerned, these schools did not do that. They increased fees during the first term without approval and they went on to increase them further this term," he said. Cde Chigwedere said even if the ministry took long to grant authority to increase fees, the schools should still wait before making any changes.

In his speech marking the 24th anniversary of Independence on April 18, President Mugabe said Government was deeply concerned with the escalating cost of education which had the potential of undermining Zimbabwe’s proud record as Africa’s most literate society. "Our principal goal of attaining education for all appears to be in real jeopardy with some schools charging as much as $10 million a term," the President said. "Government will soon come up with arrangements which will continue to make education accessible to each and every child regardless of his status or family background."

Meanwhile, it was brisk business in central Harare yesterday as parents did their last-minute shopping in preparation for the second term. The central business district was a hive of activity with some boarding school pupils making their way back to school, while some parents went from shop to shop searching for stationery, uniforms and groceries for their children to take to school. Those parents whose children wear different uniforms in winter had a frustrating and tiring time as they failed to find the right sizes in many instances.

Affected private schools at a glance
Harare
Gateway Primary, Gateway Secondary, Chisipite Senior, Arundel Girls, Heritage Primary, Heritage Secondary, Bishopslea, Tynwald High, Ridgeview High, Tynwald Primary, St, Michael Prep, Eaglesvale Primary, Eaglesvale High, Hellenic Primary, Sharon School, Twin Rivers Primary, Lusitania Primary, Hartman House, St George’s College, St John’s Preparatory, St John’s College, Bulawayo, Camel, Bulawayo Adventist Secondary, Christian Brothers’ College, Petra High, Petra Primary, Masiyepambili Secondary,

Mashonaland Central
Barwick Primary

Mashonaland East
Ariel Primary, Lendy Park Primary, Peterhouse Boys, Peterhouse Girls, Springvale House, Ruzawi Primary, Watershed College

Mashonaland West
Lomagundi College Primary, Lomagundi College Secondary, Rydings Primary, Bryden Primary, Lilfordia Primary

Manicaland
Hillcrest Primary, Hillcrest Secondary, Masvingo, Kyle College, South East College

Matabeleland South
Falcon College


BBC
4 May 2004
Zimbabwe closes 'racist' schools

The authorities in Zimbabwe have closed down at least 45 private schools due to a dispute over school fees. Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere said the schools had been closed because they increased their fees without government approval. "They throw Africans out simply by hiking fees," Mr Chigwedere said on state television. "We are dealing with racist schools. They are all former white schools, all racist."

Notices have been placed on school gates informing parents and pupils of the closures and police officers are blocking the entrance to some schools. The state-run Herald newspaper reported that 30,000 pupils would be affected and listed the closed schools.

One of President Robert Mugabe's sons and children of many ministers and ruling party leaders are believed to be among those turned away.

Inflation rate
The education minister said the schools would not reopen until they had complied with government regulations allowing them to increase their fees by only 10% a year.


The Herald
Wednesday, 5 May 2004
Some schools slash fees

Some private schools that were closed down by the Government yesterday for increasing fees without authority have slashed their fees by half in a bid to have their schools reopened. The applications for both fee reductions and increases submitted by the 45 private schools were being rapidly processed at the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture and it was hoped most, if not all, of the schools could open late this week or early next week once they complied with Government regulations. This will allow about 30 000 children to resume classes for the second term, which commenced yesterday.

At Watershed College, the chairman of the school’s board of governors Mr Theo Khumalo yesterday wrote to parents informing them that fees had been reduced drastically. In his letter to one of the parents, Mr Khumalo said boarding fees had been reduced to $3,3 million from about $7,8 million, day scholars were expected to pay $1,5 million and agriculture diploma courses were now priced at $4,4 million. "We have a crisis to resolve in spite of support from the parents for the proposed fee increases for the second term of 2004." He confirmed that the Ministry of Education had not approved the proposed increases submitted during the first term of this year. He however, wrote that the school could not continue as it did in the past due to the reduced school fees. "We will simply run out of money." To effect savings the school would be postponing proposed salary increases for teachers for May, will not fill a new teacher post for the computer section, stop the building of new classrooms and the serving of desert and sandwiches during meal times and morning breaks. However, the school had not yet opened yesterday as the Ministry of Education had not yet responded to the offer or ordered the Police to leave the school premises. Police officers were still manning school gates, day and night, to enforce the closure order, given when the schools raised their fees without the due approval of the ministry.

Several schools, in a move to speed up the decision-making process, have taken the route of direct negotiations with the ministry on the new fee levels or are resubmitting applications with lower fee proposals. All the 45 schools submitted their original applications for their proposed second term fees late last term or early in the school holidays. However, all but one jumped the gun and sent out invoices for the proposed fee before receiving permission from the ministry. The Education Act forbids the raising of a fee until formal permission has been granted and the premature issuance of invoices led to the closure of the schools. Ministry officials opened negotiations with some schools during the vacation and audit teams have visited several of them as the ministrychecked that past fees were spent on what the school said it wanted the money for. There were delays in some cases over what the ministry saw as unacceptable levels of fees with schools refusing to budge over the proposed amounts.

The Minister of Education, Sport and Culture Cde Aeneas Chigwedere, said there had been a "flurry of activity" at his ministry’s offices yesterday. "We do not want to penalise the children. However, I should state that it is up to the school management to get their school reopened swiftly. There is no way we will consider proposals of increasing fees to amounts like $10 million - so they should be able to meet us halfway," Cde Chigwedere said.

Many parents were unaware their children’s schools had been closed when the second term opened yesterday. The list was issued on Monday afternoon, when some boarders had already been admitted, but was only available in yesterday’s Herald and on early ZBC broadcasts yesterday. Confusion reigned at several schools yesterday morning with some parents dropping off their children only to be told that the schools were closed. Police officers deployed to ensure that the schools remained closed could be seen manning the entrances while scores of children were waiting outside the school gates. When The Herald visited Hartmann House, an unidentified school official was explaining to parents that the school would remain closed until Government directed otherwise. "Before today we were in the dark and were not aware of this at all. The ministry should have informed us of their intention instead of waiting for us to get it from the Press. The board did all that it was supposed to do when applying for an increase in fees, but they have not been responded to since December last year," he told the parents.

Boarders had the most difficult time as they had to remain at the schools until their parents came to pick them up. The parents, some of whom live in other towns and cities, said it was a great inconvenience and expense for them to travel back to the schools to collect their children. Some pupils from Botswana were stuck at Eaglesvale High School hostels on Tuesday night unsure of whether to stay in the country or go all the way back home until the school reopens.

Parents appear to have very strong views over both the fees and the decision to close the schools. Some say that they have every right to pay high fees and that the Government should not interfere with this, while others say the regularity of increases was too often and that the Government is right to seek smaller increases. On the closure, most of those who want smaller increases still thought that the Government should have another way to make schools conform. "Yes, we agree that private schools had gone too far, but we are against the closing-down of schools," said one parent whose child attends Chisipite School. Another parent said the Government should allow pupils to attend school while negotiations are underway. Others, like a Mr Mtubuki from Marlborough, said the Government should stay out of "private school business" as parents had the right to send their children to schools of their choice. "I work hard so that my children enjoy certain standards and the Government should understand that. They should accept that there will always be classes in society, which is why some people live in Borrowdale and others in Epworth. It is for the same reason that some people watch DStv on 29-inch television screens while others just have small black and white sets. I pay because I want my son to enjoy a five-star breakfast at school and no one should try to stop me." He said if the Government tried to stop private schools from charging more, which made it possible for them to offer higher standards, then parents like him would send their children out of the country for their education.

Several have suggested that the ministry should have called for an audit into the financial books of the schools to see how they spent the money they charged, rather than let the impasse develop.


New Zimbabwe
Parents fume over Zim school closures
By Staff Reporter Last updated: 05/05/2004 16:55:12

PARENTS have blasted President Robert Mugabe and his government following the closure of over 45 schools in a dispute over the hiking of fees. Scores of irate parents and our readers rang and e-mailed to register their dismay at the government decision, delivered on Tuesday, the same day schools opened for the new term.
Distressed parents criticised the regime's heavy-handness in closing down the schools. "For our children to get quality education, we have to pay more because these schools cannot retain good teachers and maintain good standards without resources," said Jill Teltford, a parent whose three children were sent home after the closure of their school.


VOA
Zimbabwe's Private Schools Protest Tuition Hikes
Peta Thornycroft Harare 05 May 2004, 15:11 UTC

Zimbabwe's private schools have launched an action in the High Court, claiming that it was illegal for the government to close them down Tuesday because they had increased their fees. The case by the Association of Trust Schools of Zimbabwe is to be heard on Friday. Lawyer Richard Moyo-Majwabu said he was disappointed that the court had postponed the schools' urgent application until Friday. He has filed papers claiming there is no provision in the Education Act empowering the goverment to close schools for raising fees. Mr. Moyo-Majwabu says he appealed to the judge assigned to the case, asking for it to be heard as soon as possible. The lawyer also says legal papers related to the case have been served on the minister of education, his officials and the police.

More than 20,000 schoolchildren, mainly black, go to Zimbabwe's approximately 40 non-profit private schools. Most are children of Zimbabwe's dwindling number of professionals and business executives. Almost all schools in Zimbabwe are run by parents through governing bodies that have the authority to set fees. Both private and state schools have massively increased fees since inflation began rising to its present level of about 600 percent per year. But the government says these private schools should have gotten permission before increasing the fees. The principal of one private school says the parents' committees regularly apply to the Department of Education for approval of new school fees, but seldom receive replies.

Zimbabwe's state education system, until a few years ago the best in Africa, has deteriorated along with the economy in recent years. Many teachers from state and private schools have left the profession, and some have left the country, because of the rising cost of living and low salaries. Teachers from several unions say they are the worst paid in Southern Africa. Among the worst hit in the present closure are boarding schools. At one school about 50 kilometers outside of Bulawayo, police warned they will take action if the children, who arrived from their distant homes last Sunday, do not leave immediately. Lawyers intervened, and police said they will give the school time to get fuel for buses to take the children to other locations.

The principal of a private school on the southern edges of Harare says it has reduced its fees to their previous level, but will no longer be able to fill teacher vacancies, and has had to cut down on food for the children.


Zimbabwean schools to fight foreclosure
May 05 2004 at 06:30PM
By Ryan Truscott

Harare - A top school in Zimbabwe was planning court action as most private schools in the southern African country remained closed on Wednesday after the government ordered them to shut down for hiking tuition fees without its permission. "The majority of schools are still closed," an official with the Association of Independent Trust Schools, which represents the country's 46 private schools, told AFP.

Around 30 000 children enrolled at private schools on Tuesday either found their schools closed by order of the government, or were turned away by police on what was supposed to be the first day of the mid-year term.

'We are dealing with racist schools' The state accused the schools of contravening the country's laws by hiking school fees without the authority of the government of President Robert Mugabe, which limits increases to 10 percent a year. The schools, which the government describes as elitist, are attended mainly by children of the country's middle classes, but also by the children of government and ruling party officials.

Private schools have cited escalating costs, mainly a result of inflation currently estimated at more than 580 percent, as the reason for raising fees. However, Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere has condemned the fee hikes as "racist". "We are dealing with racist schools. They are all former white schools - all racist," Chigwedere told state television on Tuesday. "They throw Africans out simply by hiking fees."

Some schools affected by the forced closures were slashing their fees He said the schools, some of which had "trebled, quadrupled, quintupled" fees since September last year, would remain shut until the issue was resolved. The teachers and parents of one prominent primary school in Harare, Hartmann House, were on Thursday due to go to court to try to overturn the government's "unlawful" closure of their school.

According to court papers obtained by AFP, the Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) is seeking a High Court order for the school to be reopened and the government's directive to be declared "null and void". Part of the application argues that Chigwedere's use of police to close the school was illegal. The official with the independent schools trust could not say whether other schools were considering legal action, but acknowledged "considerable activity on several fronts" aimed at reopening the schools. The state-run Herald newspaper reported that some schools affected by the forced closures were slashing their fees to comply with government regulations, and would open later this week or early next week.

The International Monetary Fund said in a report on the country's economy in March that many low-income parents could not afford school fees, and that school enrolment stood at 65 percent in 2003.

The main labour movement, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), said it disapproved of the closures.

"While the ZCTU condemns the exorbitant fees charged by these schools, there was no point for the ministry of education to punish students," the union's secretary general, Wellington Chibebe, said in a statement.

"The ZCTU would like to urge the government to immediately open these schools and allow students to proceed with their work," he added.
AFP


Zimbabwe hunts down school principals
Peta Thornycroft
7 May 2004

Principals and members of schools' governing bodies were arrested in Zimbabwe yesterday as the Government continued its crackdown on private schools. Officials accused them of being racist for hiking fees without permission. Other educators went into hiding as the government warning a delegation of concerned parents: " We will do to you what we did to white farmers and we will take over your schools. "

Lawyers acting for the private schools said yesterday up that they are not sure how many people had been arrested. " They will destroy the schools, but we will not go down without a fight" said Richard Moyo-Majwabu a lawyer representing the Association of Trust Schools. He went to the High Court in Bulawayo with an urgent applicant on Tuesday, hours after Police barred entry to most private schools that tried to re-open after Easter.. The case was postponed until this afternoon. " We will shown the Court that there is nothing in the Education Act allowing schools to be closed for raising fees. What they have done is illegal," he said.

Yesterday police around the country were hunting down principals and members of the governing bodies that decide fees in consultation with parents. The first to be arrested was Jon Calderwood, Rector of Peterhouse, which is Zimbabwe's best known private boarding school. Colleagues said that shortly after police took him from his home in the school grounds on Wednesday night, two board members, Simon Hammond and Chris Seager went to the police station in Marondera to look for him and were arrested. They are still in detention.

Jill Martin 60, headmistress of Lendy Park, small private primary school in Marondera, was arreasted. Her husband, Kevin Martin. Chairperson of the school's council was released because he is the town's only anaesthetist and was due at an operation. He had to report to the police later yesterday and was expecting to be detained.
Reg Querl, principal of Falcon College, and at least one member of his Board were arrested.


Heads arrested as Mugabe shuts schools
The Telegraph
7 May 2004

Zimbabwe renewed its offensive against "racist" private schools yesterday by arresting headmasters and members of governing bodies, who are accused of raising fees without permission. Teachers and others in the private sector went into hiding as the government warned a delegation of concerned parents: "We will do to you what we did to the white farmers, and we will take over your schools." Lawyers acting for the private schools said yesterday they were still not sure how many people had been arrested. "They will destroy the schools, but we will not go down without a fight," said Richard Moyo-Majwabu, representing the Association of Trust Schools. The campaign began on Tuesday when police barred entry to most private schools when they tried to re-open after Easter holidays. The schools then went to the high court in Bulawayo with an urgent application. Mr Moyo-Majwabu said the case was postponed until this afternoon "presumably so the papers can be served on the minister of education and the police. We will show the court that there is nothing in the education act allowing schools to be closed for raising fees. What they have done is illegal."

Late yesterday, in the Harare high court, lawyers acting for Hartmann House, primary school for St George's College, won a concession from the minister that it could reopen immediately. Yesterday police around the country were hunting headmasters and members of governing bodies involved in deciding fees. The first to be arrested was Jon Calderwood, rector of Zimbabwe's best known private boarding school, Peterhouse, about 50 miles south east of Harare. According to colleagues, shortly after police took him from his home in the school grounds on Wednesday night, two board members - Simon Hammond and Chris Seager - went to the local police station in Marondera to look for him and were also arrested. Jill Martin, 60, head of Lendy Park, a small private primary school also in Marondera, was arrested with her husband, Dr Kevin Martin, chairman of her board. He was later released, as he is the town's only anaesthetist and was due at an operation. He had to report to police later yesterday and was expecting to be detained.


Zim Independent
6 May 2004
Schools take govt to court
Munyaradzi Wasosa/Eric Chiriga/Loughty Dube

THE government's decision to close down private schools for allegedly charging exorbitant fees suffered a serious setback when the High Court yesterday ordered the reopening of Hartmann House Preparatory School in Harare. However, police yesterday arrested three school heads for defying a government directive to slash fees. Lundi Park Primary School headmistress Gill Martin, Ruzawi Primary School headmaster Erith Harris and John Calderwood of Peterhouse Boys and Girls High schools, were arrested at their schools yesterday. They were bundled into police vehicles in full view of school children before being whisked away to Marondera Police Station.
Justice Susan Mavangira ordered Hartmann House reopened following an urgent application by lawyers for the parents and teachers of the Catholic-run institution. "By consent an order is granted by the terms sought," said Mavangira. The state, which was represented by Farai Ruzive, did not oppose the application.

Yesterday private schools from Bulawayo and Masvingo also filed an urgent application at the High Court in Bulawayo seeking an order to nullify government's directive to shut down the schools. The case has been set down for a hearing at the Bulawayo High Court today. Cited as respondents are Education minister Aeneas Chigwedere, his permanent secretary Stephen Mahere and police commissioner Augustine Chihuri. The lawyer representing the schools, Richard Majwabu-Moyo of James, Majwabu-Moyo and Partners, said according to the Education Act it was illegal for government to close down schools on a matter that could be resolved through other means. "There is no provision in the Education Act that gives the Minister of Education powers to shut down schools for raising fees and what he has done is illegal. The schools I represent have over the last two years made applications to the ministry seeking approval for fee increments but they have received no response from government, whether approving or disapproving or even acknowledging receipt of the applications but the schools have to move on," Majwabu-Moyo said.

The Zimbabwe Independent has established that the Education ministry is imploring schools to sign an agreement not to increase fees without approval. In an interview with the Independent, Chigwedere said government was considering nationalising all private schools, calling them racist institutions. "These racist schools are operating like private business empires and government is not ruling out nationalisation," he said.

Retired army General Vitalis Zvinavashe owns Tynwald Primary and High schools which are among the 45 that have been closed on racist allegations and charging high fees.
Chigwedere cited Lomagundi and Watershed as white racist schools that were attempting to exclude black pupils.
"The major element is that white schools like Watershed and Lomagundi are racist," he said. "They are conspiring to throw out black pupils by charging exorbitant fees well beyond the reach of many black parents." Chigwedere said Lomagundi was proposing an "incredible" $8,8 million per term, while Peterhouse in Marondera was currently charging $9,9 million per term.

Quizzed on the impact of the closure on students writing June and November examinations, Chigwedere said they would not be affected. "If June students had not made thorough preparations for their exams, then it is not my ministry's fault," he said.
Chigwedere said the ministry would cut the August holiday by a week to compensate students for the time lost during closure.

Police have since been deployed to all the schools that have been closed to ensure that no lessons are conducted. Chigwedere justified the involvement of the police saying some of the headmasters were resisting his ministry's directives. Meanwhile the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education has criticised government's move to close the schools. The Independent spoke to committee chairman Fidelis Mhashu, who accused Chigwedere of taking a "militant" decision on the matter. "When things go wrong, they must be corrected in a fair manner," he said. "The militant decision taken by the minister is definitely unjustified."

Mhashu said the Education Act gives the minister and permanent secretary too much power. "The Act gives Chigwedere too much arbitrary power and definitely needs to be amended," he said.

Father Fidelis Mukonori, the provincial board chairman for both Hartmann House and St George's College, declined to comment on the government's decision. "I cannot comment on that issue," he said. "We are dealing with the problem, and I am made to understand that Hartmann will be opening tomorrow (today)."

More than 30 000 pupils have been affected by the closure of private schools. Chigwedere said his ministry's offices had been besieged by scores of disgruntled parents who were demanding answers from the government. In a snap survey conducted by the Independent this week, the general feeling was that while it was necessary to review the fee hikes, government was not justified "to resort to such drastic measures". Former Zesa boss Simbarashe Mangwengwende said: "As a parent I think this is not the right way of dealing with problems. The government is holding children hostage and this will definitely affect their studies."


Zim Standard
6 May 2004
Chigwedere's illegal conduct

WE must once again ask whether there is any remedy when Government and the police are guilty of abusing their powers as demonstrated by their illegal closure of private schools throughout the country. The extraordinary decision to shut down schools is one more example of how the government considers itself above the law. There is no provision in the Education Act that gives the Minister of Education, Sport and Culture the power to shut down schools for increasing fees. The government has made a complete ass of itself over the matter because what it did was totally and completely illegal.

The Education Act stipulates that no school may charge a fee or increase a fee by more than 10% without seeking the approval of the Secretary for Education. Nowhere in the Act does it empower the Secretary or the Minister to close schools. The closure of the private schools was an assault on people's freedoms befitting only an authoritarian country.

Both Aeneas Chigwedere and Augustine Chihuri acted unreasonably without taking due regard of the law. The police's unquestioning compliance with this illegal decision is outrageous and satanic. The attack on the weakest members of society i.e. the innocent children was a most cowardly way of trying to solve the nation's problems. In any event, the cause of the rise in schools fees is Zanu PF's mismanagement of the economy. The illegal action against the private schools will destroy whatever optimism there is for the future of this country. For more than four years now, the government through a host of bad laws coupled with extra-legal pressures has steadily whittled down the effective freedoms of Zimbabweans. The closure of schools carries a clear message for the long suffering Zimbabweans of all colours and creeds: that there is no end to this monster of intolerance and hatred that is being unleashed by the Government and the ruling party on fellow Zimbabweans. Nor are the Zimbabweans themselves blameless. We have thus far remained silent and acquiescent. One must ask: what will it take for Zimbabweans to wake up from their deep slumber?


ATS NEWSLETTER
6 May 2004
To All Heads and Chairmen of ATS member schools

This email is designed to update schools on the most recent developments in regard to school closures, fee increase applications etc. At the time of writing several heads and board members have been detained in police cells; yet others have been required to attend police stations and have made warned and cautioned statements; all of these actions apparently pursuant to charges under the Education Act in respect of fees. Everything possible is being done to support and advise these colleagues.

A number of ATS schools have re-opened having been cleared to do so by Ministry following signature by the schools of "acceptance certificates". A small ATS / CHISZ delegation was finally able to meet with the Permanent Secretary and several of his colleagues this morning. Neil Todd / the ATS office is now working with ministry officials to establish the exact status of all member schools in regard to compliance with the most recent directives and in order that schools which remain closed can be re-opened. This matter is extremely urgent, not only because of the prejudice being suffered but because we have been advised by the Permanent Secretary that the deadline for compliance is tomorrow, Friday 7 May and not 14 May as reported in the Herald and as indicated by the Minister during his meeting with parent representatives. We have been advised that failure to comply before the expiry of the deadline will lead to a "different administrative course of action" which is understood to mean the government "takeover" of schools which remain "incompliant".

Can schools who have not yet re-opened or have not yet been offered the opportunity to sign an "acceptance certificate" please contact their PED and / or the Ministry immediately to establish their current status; please also advise the ATS office. In essence, the acceptance certificates indicate that schools accept that their fees should not exceed the level approved by Ministry and that they will remain at this level for the remainder of 2004. It appears that in the case of schools which have been notified of approved fee levels for first term 2004 that this is the fee applicable and in the case of other schools, fees may yet be awaiting determination by Ministry based on applications for increases over and above those applicable to third term 2003. Boards of member schools are of course entitled to decide how best to proceed, perhaps based on advice received, and this applies both to the signing [or not] of "acceptance certificates" and to legal action.

The ATS advises that schools should sign these certificates as the only practical present means of being permitted to re-open but that they should submit to PEDs and Ministry letters indicating their sincere desire and intention, on behalf of and pursuant to a mandate from parents, to enter into negotiations in good faith for possible further adjustments to fees. The ATS is continuing to seek legal advice and urges member schools not to allow themselves to be co-opted into processes of legal action which may have motivations different from the immediate school fees / closures issue. Member schools are of course autonomous and may choose to take legal action on their own behalf including the seeking of injunctive relief. Meetings have been held involving parents and representatives of PTAs and PLCs from several member schools. A small committee was appointed and met on 5 May with Minister Chigwedere. The substance of the discussion and statements made by the Minister were reported back to parent representatives at a further meeting last night. These may be summarised as follows :

Government will not tolerate the continuing defiance of private schools in seeking to exceed approved fee increases
Should schools fail to comply with the Ministry's directives by Friday 14 May [NB : Perm Sec advises this should be 7 May] by signing the acceptance document, Government will take over these schools forthwith - they will be nationalised. Will take 3 - 5 years to apply to get back ownership / running of school
Parents must not fear as government will take over - don't worry about time lost - August holidays shorter, no half term weekend
Private schools registered conditionally - temporary licence given by government

Government not responsible for closure of schools, merely not allowed to open • expecting legal action and loop holes to be exploited and these will be closed immediately
Court orders will be defied - schools will not open on legal action • one increase per annum - applications to be submitted by 31 October and response by 30 November
Spoke extensively of 10% allowance - if above, will entertain application
Donations will not be permitted, all levies will be policed
Not fighting intransigence but racism
Fee hikes racist measures to throw out blacks - "racist war"
Pupil and staff ratios minimum of 60% black.
Spoke about racial composition of Boards / ATS and CHISZ - only meet with whites - where are the blacks? •
Informers in school, know how dissatisfied parent body are
"Sad year for you all" - elections next year and there are constituents out there who show us receipts and complain - these are votes for us. •
Boards must have one government rep
Government grant allows 20:1 pupil staff ratio

During the meeting with the Perm Sec this morning, we were advised that fee increases needed to be "reasonable" in the context of the present economic environment given poor harvests. During discussion on the issue of negotiation he made it clear that whereas there was a general right to appeal decisions made by ministry in fixing school fees, in all cases Ministry had addressed itself to all the circumstances and in fixing fees at levels below those applied for had determined that there was "excessive fat". It was very clear that Ministry have been alarmed by the level of increase in fees implemented or applied for by some schools and there is no doubt that in failing to follow consistent previous ATS advice, some of our members have made rods for our backs by having fallen way behind inflation during past years.

There are obviously serious implications for schools signing acceptance certificates, thereby pegging fees at levels below, and in some cases very considerably below, those which they had contemplated charging for second term 2004; not to speak of the "over charge" in respect of the first term. The considerable reduction in revenue which flows from this position has serious consequences for schools, some of which may render themselves insolvent almost immediately and facing extreme difficulties in relation to possible contractual and other commitments to staff and suppliers.

All schools must urgently take steps to make parents aware and consult with them in regard to measures which will need to be taken in order that schools can operate on such lower revenue bases. Thereafter, and with very explicit parental support, schools should consider approaching the authorities to discuss possible fee adjustments based on proven and reasonable costs necessary to sustain the level of service required by parents.

The Government perception is that in our Trust schools parents are insufficiently involved in the decision making processes including the setting of service delivery standards, staff pupil ratios, development expenditure, budgets and fees. Schools should revisit their structures and must in particular ensure that parents are fully informed and consulted in regard to the chosen way forward for each school as it relates to cost structures and revenue generation.

Please keep the ATS office, Neil Todd and David Long fully informed of your situation. Our objective is to get children back into school with the least possible further disruption and thereafter to seek fair and durable solutions to this issue. We remain committed to the dialogue and consultation process based on mutual respect and honesty.
Yours sincerely
DAVID LONG and NEIL TODD


Destroying education for its own sake
Zim Standard
7 May 2004

IT is a matter of national pride when people say that education in Zimbabwe was once upon a time the envy of Africa and much of the Third World. To this day, Zimbabwe has the best educated population on the African continent. But sadly, we are in danger of completely reversing the gains that have been achieved over the years in this area. All because of government's propensity towards controlling everything. There are now government tentacles controlling the Press, agriculture, industry and now education. In fact, the list is endless.

The latest in government predatory escapades: The closure of private schools was and is totally inexcusable. The Minister of Education, Sport and Culture, Aeneas Chigwedere may wish to indulge in semantics by saying his Ministry did not close schools but stopped them reopening, but his pontifications fool no one. Indeed, there has to be a limit to how much any government can meddle in people's lives. True, in today's society, there is very little an individual could do that does not impinge on others. And yet in matters education, questions of individual liberties inevitably crop up. There are differences of opinion, some strongly held but the point must be made that uniformity is secondary to the preservation of the basic right of parents to educate their children as they think fit. To imply that it is acceptable for people to spend what money they have on luxury cars and other things but not permissible to spend it on their children's education is an affront to all who care for either freedom or culture.

The point is made that people make choices in life. And government has absolutely no right to coerce people to do what it likes. Clearly, this is where Chigwedere has become too big for his education boots. There is a terrible misconception among Zimbabwean ministers that they are masters of the people not their servants. If a Zimbabwean of whatever colour or creed disagrees with the government he is immediately labelled an enemy or a saboteur. Why? Why?

The supreme lesson of this millennium is that people who are free go right ahead through self-effort. The disadvantaged, the weak and the infirm have obviously to be helped and assisted but it will be immoral to stifle creativity and energy in people. That is where this government is going wrong. Very wrong!

It is important to restate that Zanu PF's skewed policies are solely to blame for the abnormal economic environment in Zimbabwe which has necessitated the spiralling of prices of virtually everything. School fees cannot be the exception. In State schools, things have literally fallen apart. Evidence of this abounds. Oversized classes, infrastructural decay, low salaries, acute shortage of textbooks, with pupils sometimes sharing 10 to a single text book. It is precisely because the private schools charge more than State schools that they are able to maintain better facilities. And this because of the high fees that parents are willing and able to pay for the quality education they desire for their children.

It matters little whether examination results in State schools are better than in private schools. It is common knowledge that the State education system has completely failed to pay attention to the individual personalities and problems of children. Teachers in State schools in Zimbabwe are trained simply to transmit knowledge. They were not taught to encourage and mould the individual development of each child. Private schools do and it costs money. It is hogwash for Chigwedere to over-emphasise the importance of examination results to the exclusion of everything else. Yes, paper qualifications are important but personal qualities as reflected in the pupil's etiquette, demeanour, appearance, attitude to work, confidence and general behaviour are equally important. That is where private schools excel. In fact, in today's world, the great majority of employers place little or no relevance on school reports and examination results when assessing a young person's candidature for a job. The final decision by employers is invariably made on the basis of the candidate's personal skills and qualities rather than academic qualifications.

In the face of criticism, Chigwedere and his officials must not simply dig their heels in. They must listen to what people say. Chigwedere's major shortcoming, and a weakness that pervades the higher echelons of power in Zimbabwe is the belief that they alone know what is best for Zimbabwe. This is very wrong. What must be clearly understood is that any parent worth his salt is invariably passionate about providing the best for his/her children. Taking political action to destroy people's ingenuity and creativity is the worst thing that any Government can do.

We will be the first to admit that the pursuit of equality is a higher and more important goal than the pursuit of liberty. But that pursuit must not be carried out while destroying everything in the process. That is where Chigwedere and the government in general appears to be following what we can only describe as the domino theory: knock them all down one by one. We have watched the growth of authoritarianism in Zimbabwe for far too long and its damaging effects our on country are all to obvious. Faced with a crisis of its own making, the government is now unfairly demanding sacrifices from people. And to make things worse, it dictates rather than arbitrates.
Zimbabwe is not Chigwedere and Chigwedere is not Zimbabwe.

Our parting shot with Chigwedere and the long-suffering parents is that schools and colleges which obey the dictates of government deteriorate rapidly to produce people with blinkered and streamlined minds or become second-rate institutions which serve nobody and achieve nothing. Zimbabwe.


Private Schools Reopen
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
May 10, 2004 Posted to the web May 10, 2004
Johannesburg

Most private schools closed by the Zimbabwe government last week are set to reopen, the Department of Education told IRIN on Monday. An official confirmed on Monday that 43 of the 45 schools shut down by government over a fees dispute had been cleared for reopening, and discussions were ongoing over the fate of two others - a resolution regarding them could soon be announced.

The 45 schools were closed last week after breaching the Education Act when they increased fees and levies by more the allowed 10 percent without seeking permission to do so from the Permanent Secretary for Education. About 30,000 pupils were affected by the decision to close private schools.

Education department spokesman Beredias Nyanhete told IRIN that by Monday letters had been sent to police, notifying them that 43 schools had "come to some accommodation with the ministry" over the increased fees and were allowed to reopen. Last week Minister of Education Aeneas Chigwedere instructed police to prevent the start of the second term at private schools until they had reached agreement with the state over school fees. The letters sent out over the weekend and on Monday requested the withdrawal of "police cadres" from the premises of the 43 schools that had agreed to cut fees. Private schools argued that the 10 percent increase allowed by the Education Act fell far short of the cost of maintaining education standards and school facilities. Inflation in Zimbabwe has hovered around 600 percent as the country's economic crisis pushes up prices for goods and services. The closure of the private schools followed the suspension of 92 school heads last term over the same issue.


ZW News
Some Notes by St. George's College headmaster on closure of Private Schools in Zimbabwe
10 May 2004

It was 3.40 pm Monday 3rd May, the day before the Second Term was due to reopen. The Staff Briefing of the morning was over; the crisp clear blue of a wintry Zimbabwean sky gleamed through my windows and the noisy chatter of returning boarders keen to meet up with their fellows, if not eager to have returned to school, filtered in from the background.

Incongruously enough two police constables were shown into my office, Dzvairo and Mutinyinde; they said they had come from 'DISPOL' (the rather Orwellian abbreviation for Harare District Police Headquarters) to tell me to close the school with immediate effect. To do such a serious thing, I replied, I needed written authorization; please could I see it. No they had none, but I could phone their superior officer. Several attempts to do this were unsuccessful, so I asked them to record my extreme reluctance to carry out this instruction without having sight of any official document. On their way out, I suggested that if the school had to close tomorrow, they should go and warn our near neighbour and parent (His Excellency, the President) that he could not send his son to school . a wry grin indicated their reluctance to perform this frivolous request.

In truth this police visitation did not take us completely by surprise as messages from schools in the country areas about police closing their gates trickled in from midday. The day's headlines in the 'official' newspaper had also indicated that something was afoot; although the Chairman of the ATS - the local private schools' umbrella association - had been assured by the Permanent Secretary only a week before that school closures were not on the agenda and this had lulled us in to believing that closure was not a likely outcome. Any remaining doubts were dispelled the next morning when a couple of police constables were manning our gates by 6.00 am. , and we were left with no alternative but to ask boarders to return home, and the day scholars were not allowed through the gates.

A 'softening up' process was launched on Wednesday evening whereby various Heads around the country were arrested, and maintaining the fiction that they were responsible for raising fees, the Police brought charges against them for supposedly violating the Education Act. Two rather aggressive young constables knocked on my door at 7.00 pm. And said that they were taking me in. This was a little euphemistic; they had been sent on foot from Harare Central Police Station - a distance of about 5 kms - and unless I could provide transport, on foot we would be returning. On the grounds that I would phone to borrow school transport, I was able to make several calls for assistance before I drove us to the Police Station.

A rather unpleasant Inspector Rugara oversaw the taking of my particulars before I was led below to the holding cells to be detained overnight, according to them. No charges were preferred. Happily for me, I was released about half an hour later - the result, I think, of a phone call from someone in authority. Ordered to report back at 8.00 am. on Thursday, I was indeed charged with violating the Education Act by raising fees and then released. My friend and colleague, Jon Calderwood, the Rector of Peterhouse was detained for 18 hours at Marondera Police Station.

More cheerful information reached us on Thursday that an application to the High Court by the PTA of our Prep. School to have the Minster's closure of schools declared illegal was successful. The Prep school was permitted to open on the Friday and the police at their gate removed. Despite this successful legal outcome other schools including ourselves continued to be blockaded by the Police. School Authorities were informed to collect documents from the Ministry of Education office which were to inform them what fees could be charged, to sign their agreement to these documents, and to return them by Friday at 4.00 pm. or risk the 'nationalization' of their schools. If they signed, the police would be removed and schools would be allowed to open on Monday next.

In our document we were to be allowed to charge approximately one third of what our Finance Committee had recommended. Board Members hastily gathered on Friday and consensus was quickly reached that this was not a viable option. The document was not signed and we now await the response to this situation with some apprehension. According to local media, however, a majority of schools have signed and will be allowed to open on Monday. We may follow the Prep. School's route and seek an injunction in the High Court to have the closure declared illegal.

The issue of fees is, of course, related to hyper inflation which is at levels of 600%. (At Independence in 1980 the Zimbabwean Dollar was on a par with the UK Pound. A Pound now trades at close to Z$10000) In order to retain staff most schools have endeavoured to keep salaries on track with inflation. Schools are self-supporting, depending entirely on their fee income for survival. Inflation and mismanagement have wrought havoc with the government education sector; we were informed by the media that 80 government and mission school Headmasters were recently suspended by the Ministry for increasing, with parental consent, their 'voluntary' levies without Ministry approval.
Fees in the private sector, and levies in the government sector do require Ministry of Education approval; but the Education Act also requires the Ministry to respond to any such applications 'without delay'. Perhaps fearing the wrath of their political masters should they give the wrong answer but also recognizing the problems on the ground, the Ministry has become increasingly dilatory about making any responses to applications, seeking refuge in silence, and schools have gone ahead and implemented their fee and levy increases without formal approval. (We submitted our application for fee increases in December and prior to the current contretemps had had no formal response.)

Brendan Tiernan,
Headmaster St. George's College
Footnote: In May 2002 Brendan Tiernan was charged with violating Zimbabwe's notorious Public Order and Security Act when he expressed to the parents of the school his opinion that the 2002 Presidential Elections had not been free and fair. No court case has yet resulted.


IOL
Lessons in tyranny as Mugabe targets schools
May 09 2004 at 10:16AM
By Basildon Peta

Already shocked at being used as scapegoats for the forced closure of private schools, Zimbabwe's dwindling white population is bracing for yet another onslaught from President Robert Mugabe. About 46 private schools were closed after Mugabe branded them racist for charging exorbitant fees to "block access" to poor black pupils. Mugabe has since threatened to convert them into public schools. Despite a court order that nullified the closure, 30 000 children were out of school this week. "They [private schools] throw Africans out by hiking fees," said Aeneas Chigwedere, the education minister, on state TV. "We are dealing with racist schools here. They are all racist." However, after the exodus of whites from Zimbabwe following the seizures of their properties, only 20 percent of the pupils in private schools are white.

"It is the same old story of scapegoating the white population for this regime's failures," said a white Zimbabwean who preferred to remain anonymous. "We fear the worst."
Most of the schools remained shut on Friday with a heavy police presence at their entrances. White fears are being fanned by the populistic tactics the government has adopted to garner votes ahead of the March poll. Despite declaring his land invasions at an end in December 2002, Mugabe has continued to seize land. His attention has now shifted to larger plantations owned by multinational companies. The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper singled out the productive Triangle Sugar Estates "as the government moves to expropriate all private farmland".

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the speaker of parliament, announced government plans to acquire the estates last weekend at a Workers' Day rally in Chiredzi . The Zimbabwe Independent said Triangle Ltd and Hippo Valley Estates had been designated for compulsory acquisition. Anglo American Corporation and Tongaat Hulett, who own the two estates, have lodged objections with John Nkomo, the minister of special affairs responsible for land reform. Last month the government forcibly ejected the owners of Kondozi Farm in Odzi, the prominent De Klerk family and their black partner, Edwin Moyo. Kondozi Farm earns about $15-million (about R105-million) annually in horticultural exports .
The Zimbabwe National Army has remained at Charleswood Estate in eastern Zimbabwe despite a high court order to vacate the property in favour of the white owner, opposition Movement for Democratic Change MP Roy Bennett. The government also plans to seize Surrey Abattoir, Zimbabwe's biggest abattoir, as well as Foyle Farm in the Mazowe area, which has high-tech dairy production facilities and irrigation equipment. - Foreign Service
.. This article was originally published on page 5 of The Sunday Independent on May 09, 2004


One Private School Remains Closed
The Herald (Harare)
May 11, 2004

ALL but one of private schools closed by Government last week for allegedly increasing fees without approval reopened yesterday following the finalisation of fees by the Government at the end of last week. Government last week stopped 45 private schools from opening for the second term after they increased fees by more than the stipulated 10 percent without its written authorisation. This saw at least 30 000 pupils failing to attend lessons for the whole of last week. Lessons had resumed at all affected schools with the exception of St George's College, which remained shut with police manning the entrance as some issues were still outstanding. The Secretary for Education, Sport and Culture, Dr Stephen Mahere, said the board running St George's was still to bring its letter of acceptance.

The Government indicated last week that private schools would only be allowed to reopen after complying with the law. The schools had all applied at the end of last term or early in the school holidays for increases. Under the Education Act, the secretary for the ministry can accept the proposals or reject them and set his own fee. In all cases this time, the secretary has set a fee, based on the third term of last year, and well below what was submitted for this term. In many cases it was less than half what was desired. Fees in many cases seem to be just under twice what was charged in the third term and in several cases the ministry seems to have rounded down the third term fee to the nearest hundred thousand dollars and then doubled that resulting figure. After receiving the new fee, the schools were required to sign letters of acceptance before they could be allowed to reopen.

Hartmann House, which was granted a High Court order to reopen last week, also resumed lessons yesterday. The 17 schools in the Bulawayo area also won an uncontested court order on Friday to reopen, but were also cleared by the ministry. There was some confusion, however, as some parents were not very sure whether Hartmann House had reopened.

Hartmann House, the preparatory school for St George's College, was not on the list of schools to have reached an agreement with the ministry, which was published over the weekend and Dr Mahere indicated that the school was also still to submit its letter of acceptance. However, the school reopened because of the High Court order.


Posturing Chigwedere Bungles Again
Financial Gazette (Harare)
May 13, 2004
Njabulo Ncube Bulawayo

First it was the one nation, one school uniform fiasco, later it was colonial names of schools, and now the row is over fees. In all instances, education, sport and culture minister Aeneas Chigwedere raised the ire of parents and educationists. While he may seem to have won the latest round, moves by the government to arbitrarily slash fees for privately-run schools have heightened fears that standards will plunge in the already deteriorating education system.

Chigwedere has been involved in a disruptive dispute with privately-run schools over fees, which the government contends have been deliberately driven upwards to safeguard elitism. The government, and Chigwedere in particular, has been criticised for its high-handed approach which saw several schools failing to open for the new term this month, while some school heads and administrators were arrested. Analysts said the excessive school fees charged by privately-run institutions were a direct result of the hyperinflationary environment. Most schools are not, however, beyond reproach. They misled the government into believing that the controversial fee hikes were approved by the parents when it was not so. One school in Marondera submitted a signed attendance register for a meeting convened when schools closed last month as proof that the parents had unanimously agreed on the fees. As it turned out, the majority of the parents were against the fee hikes. However, any attempts, the analysts pointed out, to control and prescribe levels of school fees would be futile, as had been demonstrated when similar moves were made to control prices of basic goods and services.

Chigwedere, in particular, has been criticised for his posturing at the expense of schoolchildren and future private investment in education, a task which has clearly grown beyond the government's meagre means. Education experts and analysts said while fees at some private schools in the country had become quite high, the government's populist stance on the matter had sounded the death knell to private investment in education. They said lack of investment by private entities and individuals would further compromise education standards nationwide, which have been on the decline because of insufficient state funding since the onset of the economic recession, now in its fifth year. The government accuses private schools of racism by charging exorbitant fees allegedly to keep out blacks, charges roundly dismissed by representatives of the 46 privately-run schools.

Fidelis Mhashu, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) education, sports and culture shadow minister, said Chigwedere's public posturing about racism in private schools was politically motivated and did not augur well for the country's troubled education sector. "What he (Chigwedere) did (to order closure of schools) was illegal but we detect some political undercurrents in the whole debacle. I think the man is trying to play it good to his masters. He wants to be seen as militant and a war minister who holds no brief for whites. His interference, if unchecked, will in the end kill off our education, which is on its deathbed," said Mhashu. The MDC legislator and veteran educationist added: "People should remember he is the same fellow who has in the past come up with some not-so-brilliant ideas."

About two years ago, Chigwedere, a historian and a school administrator of many years' standing, announced Zimbabwean pupils would be obliged to wear one identical uniform, both at primary and secondary level. However, the project was quickly shot down after vehement opposition from parents and civic organisations. After failing to bulldoze his way with the one-nation-one-uniform policy, Chigwedere later announced that all schools with English or colonial names should drop them and, instead, adopt indigenous titles approved by him. The policy has met with little success, with some schools flatly refusing to change their names.

"We should not allow them (government) to do what they did to the commercial farming sector," said Max Mkandla, a war veteran and leader of the Zimbabwe War Liberators Peace Initiative, referring to the government's forcible seizure of white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks in 2000. Yes, there are some instances where the fees are high, but it seems the whole issue has taken a political dimension. Some chefs have their children in schools outside the country, so they do not care if the education system here collapses," said Mkandla. "Public schools are poor and ill-equipped so parents with money find solace in private schools, which offer more than mere academic subjects," he added.

Most public schools inherited from the former colonial government at independence in 1980 have become run down, with buildings and sporting facilities falling apart, resulting in low morale among staff and pupils. Many well-to-do Zimbabweans no longer send their children to public schools because of sub-standard education and learning facilities, largely blamed on poor remuneration for teachers. A large number of teachers have left the country for greener pastures overseas or in neighbouring countries, while others have joined the great trek to the United Kingdom and the United States to do menial jobs.

"The government inherited public schools that were remarkable at independence but standards at these schools have been in a free-fall since then. This is all because of insufficient funds being channelled towards education," said David Coltart, an MDC legislator who sits on the governing board of a private school in Bulawayo. Private schools are not racist nor elitist as the government would want the world to believe. By charging some of these fees considered exorbitant, the boards of governors of these private schools are merely trying to maintain standards that will ensure pupils enrolled at the schools excel," said Coltart. "This regime should, instead, slash its defence and Central Intelligence Organisation budgets and then put this money in public sector education so that buildings and sports fields are maintained and quality staff recruited," he added.
Heneri Dzinotiweyi, a University of Zimbabwe lecturer, said lack of adequate communication between the government and private schools had resulted in the impasse that saw the forcible closure of some privately-run schools. According to the Education Act, it is illegal for any private school to raise its fees by over 10 percent within a year without the minister's approval. But with Zimbabwe's galloping inflation, the highest in the world at nearly 600 percent, private schools say it is impossible to continue operating unless they hike the fees to match soaring costs. They said this week's arbitrary slashing of fees would render them bankrupt. Chigwedere charged on state television last Thursday night that "private schools were factories to produce white Rhodesians". He added: "The ownership (of private schools) is British. It is the very war we are fighting against these schools."

Dzinotiweyi said by ordering the closure of the schools and posting armed police, Chigwedere had given the impression the government was bulldozing its way into the running of private institutions. "Fundamentally, we have a serious problem of communication, particularly at high levels, hence this problem. It is well known that the standards of education in the country have fallen and it has been left to the private sector to try to return some semblance of normalcy. Unfortunately, in so doing, the private sector has raised the ire of the authorities by the fees they are charging. We need a fair debate by all stakeholders on how we can continue to maintain the good standards in the private schools without charging some of these fees," said Dzinotiweyi. He said what was worrying was that a number of cabinet ministers and senior government officials had children studying abroad where they had unfettered access to state-of-the-art educational facilities.

The privately-run schools, which are in fact mostly dominated by blacks, have been able to maintain superb conditions and recorded high pass rates attributed to expert teaching staff, some of whom were recruited overseas or from neighbouring countries such as South Africa and even Kenya, said a parent whose child is at a privately-run primary school in Bulawayo. However, Peter Shumba, an industrialist with a daughter at an elitist school, said the government and ZANU PF had gone to sleep, allowing some private schools to "fleece parents". "The government let this situation develop. They were all sleeping.

Relevant Links Southern Africa Zimbabwe Education "Now, as usual, they are fire-fighting. It is impossible to fork out $9.9 million a term just for a boarding school. Are some of these schools five-star hotels?" he asked.
Coltart, however, said: "It is nonsense that private schools are racist. At most, about 90 percent of children at these schools are of the black elite. The regime must leave private schools alone and then channel funds into public schools, whose state of repair is appalling to say the least."


Schools were not closed: Chigwedere
The Herald 13 May 2004

THE Minister of Education, Sport and Culture, Cde Aeneas Chigwedere, said the Government did not close any school, but prevented schools that had illegally increased fees from opening.
"We said you raised fees without the ministry’s authority against the provision of the Education Act. Now we are limiting you to so much and you come and sign that you accept. If you do not accept, you do not open," he said.
Cde Chigwedere said this in response to a question from Mutare North MP Mr Giles Mutsekwa (MDC), who had asked the ministry’s position following the successful challenging of the closure of some of the schools in court.


The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe Weekly Media
Update 2004-18 Monday May 3rd - Sunday May 9th 2004
Schools closure

THE docile manner in which the government-controlled media, particularly ZBC, covered the government's use of the police to enforce its closure of private schools it accused of massively hiking school fees further underscored the extent to which the authorities have transformed these media into unquestioning conduits of racial bigotry. The government broadcaster allowed Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere to claim - without substantiation - that private schools were "racist" and were therefore increasing fees to discriminate against black people. The broadcaster's complicity in this regard was more pronounced in the way it regurgitated these claims without subjecting them to any analysis or balancing them with comments from the affected parents and the school authorities on the reasons behind the increased fees.

Notably, Zimpapers' publications, which usually adopt a similar stance to ZBC on topical issues, initially steered clear of Chigwedere's unproven racial claims and preferred to carry factual, fair and relatively balanced event reports on the matter. Thus, unlike their electronic counterpart, the papers also quoted the affected parents' condemnation of the closures. However, by the end of the week their "independent" stance was brought into line following more racist remarks made by Chigwedere on ZTV's Face the Nation programme. Opinion pieces in the Chronicle (8/5), the Sunday News and The Sunday Mail (9/5) unquestioningly echoed Chigwedere's allegations and called for tougher action against the schools.

Like ZBC, the government papers did not fully discuss the legality of the government action. The private media however, categorically condemned the schools' closure as illegal since the Education Act, which the authorities and the media they control used to justify the shutdowns, has no provision for this action.

As news of government's closure of the 45 private schools emerged in The Herald (4/5), ZTV (4/5, 6pm) tried to justify the move saying it was meant to "preserve the gains made by government in the education sector since independence". The station and Power FM (4/5, 8pm) then quoted Chigwedere contriving a racial factor to defend the illegal shutdown. Citing St George' s College and Peterhouse as examples, Chigwedere described the private schools as "racist schools" which wanted "to throw the black majority out of education" and added that, "government won't hesitate to deal with this racist attitude".

To give the government action a seal of public approval, ZTV (4/5, 8pm) then conducted street interviews with selected members of the public and claimed that most parents had condemned the fee hikes because they felt the move was aimed at discriminating against "the black majority and move back to the era when some schools were meant for whites only." No comment was sought from the schools' authorities. Neither did the broadcaster try to relate the fee increases to the runaway cost of living. Instead, it quoted Chigwedere downplaying this by allowing him to claim that the "Prices of most goods are going down."

But Studio 7 (5/5) and The Standard (9/5) disputed this. The Standard noted that school fees, like everything else in Zimbabwe, had risen because of "the abnormal economic environment" caused by "Zanu PF's skewed policies," while Studio 7 quoted University of Zimbabwe educationist Fred Zindi saying the fees hikes were made "to counter inflation" and allow the schools to continue to offer high quality education. Zindi dismissed Chigwedere's claims that private schools were racist saying Zimbabwe's white population is "very small and the majority of the pupils in those schools are black." Though most of these schools are run by whites, he added, "it is not the (white) principals who make these increases but the PTAs (Parents and Teachers Associations)." Teachers who were also quoted on the same bulletin agreed, saying, "more than 70% of their students are black".

Some corroboration of these claims appeared in The Herald (6/5). The paper quoted parents as having told Chigwedere that 80 percent of children enrolled at private schools were blacks thereby "significantly exceeding" government's stipulated quota of 60 percent. The paper also deviated from its usual passivity when reporting government policies by quoting parents condemning the closure. The authorities should "raise standards at its own schools" rather than "focusing on closing private schools", said one parent. Similar views appeared in The Herald (5/5) and even The Sunday Mail.

But the public broadcaster refused to exercise even this minimal professional standard. Rather, it meekly provided Chigwedere (ZTV's Face the Nation (6/5, 9.30pm) with an unbridled platform to divert public attention from the real issues bedeviling the education sector in Zimbabwe by allowing him to dabble in racial and nationalist rhetoric. Said Chigwedere, fully exposing the source of deep-seated racial hatred that has characterized Zimbabwean politics for the past four years: "These schools. are the factories that manufacture the Rhodesians. At any rate, look at their history; they were established by the Rhodesian regime to produce future Rhodesian leaders and they have remained Rhodesian to this day. And the ownership is foreign, it is British. The very war that we are fighting against Britain is the very war we are fighting against these schools. this is another front of the racist war that we are fighting".

Instead of subjecting these absurd allegations to analysis, the Chronicle (8/5), Sunday News and The Sunday Mail rehashed and approved such insidious racism. For example, the Chronicle's Busybody column, notable for its crude attacks against perceived government opponents, celebrated government's crackdown on the schools, describing them as an "extension of apartheid". The column claimed that "whites" established "whites only" schools after realizing "that they could not practice racism in independent Zimbabwe", adding that it "liked" Chigwedere's comments.

The Sunday News's Goings-On column also welcomed the closure saying "little Rhodesians" were "unacceptable" while The Sunday Mail's Tafataona Mahoso likened government's action to the "Third Chimurenga", which would prevent private schools from producing "another bunch of Rhodies in African skin". These papers however, conveniently ignored the fact that not all the closed private schools are white-owned, as illustrated by Tynwald Primary School, owned by retired army commander, Vitalis Zvinavashe.

Eventually however, the schools' response to their closure obliged the media to reveal the illegal nature of government's action. ZTV (6/5, 8pm), The Herald and the Zimbabwe Independent (7/5) reported that the High Court, with the consent of the State, had ordered the reopening of Hartmann House Preparatory School, which had filed an urgent application against the government's action. The Herald and the Zimbabwe Independent also revealed that other private schools in Masvingo and Bulawayo had also filed court applications seeking to nullify the closure. The Independent quoted the schools' lawyer, Richard Majwabu-Moyo, saying, "There is no provision in the Education Act that gives the Minister of Education powers to shut down schools for raising fees and what he has done is illegal." The Standard and Studio 7 (6/5) quoted other legal experts making similar observations. Despite this, ZBC (6/5, 8pm), The Herald and the Zimbabwe Independent (7/5) still reported the police as having arrested some of the school headmasters accused of unilaterally hiking fees.

Unlike the Independent however, The Herald did not name some of the arrested headmasters or their schools. Rather, it only revealed that those arrested in Marondera had paid deposit fines after signing admission of guilt forms and quoted police spokesman Andrew Phiri saying the police "were enforcing the laws that exist and we will continue to do so until everyone complies." The paper did not question this falsehood. Studio 7 (6/5), however, quoted Harare lawyer Simon Ziva saying there are no legal provisions for such arrests as private school staffers "do no fall under the essential category in terms of the Public Service Act."

But the authorities' disdain for the law and their continued abuse of office to formulate self-serving legislation without regard to other people's freedoms was clearly demonstrated by Chigwedere's remarks on ZTV's Face The Nation. Chigwedere pointed out that government would circumvent the law by amending the Education Act so as to legitimize its demands on private schools. Citing the Hartmann court victory, he said private schools might "win (court cases) because they have exploited a loophole somewhere. In two, three weeks, we will have plugged the hole. They discover another one and exploit it, six months thereafter, we plug the hole. there is no way they can win."


Zim Independent
15 May 2004
Govt bid another blind move
Munyaradzi Wasosa

IN Ghana there is a proverb that says: "When a leopard wants to devour its young ones, it first accuses them of smelling like goats."
Over the past four years the Zimbabwean government has descended on almost all business sectors threatening to take over the ventures under the pretext of indigenisation or black economic empowerment. First to be affected were mainly white-owned commercial farms in the year 2000. Private properties were violently invaded, throwing into disarray the well-organised commercial farming system. The invasions resulted in widespread food shortages and loss of employment in the agricultural sector. Next to "smell like a goat" were the manufacturing industries where unscrupulous indigenous individuals claimed to be solving labour disputes. White-owned ventures were targeted. In the recent turbulence in the education sector the government has threatened to nationalise all private "racist" schools.

Last week 46 prestigious schools were barred from reopening for the second term for allegedly charging exorbitant fees. The schools were forced to review their fees to December 2003 levels despite the spiralling cost of living and soaring inflation. In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent last week, Education minister Aeneas Chigwedere said the government intended to nationalise all private schools to stop them from operating like private business empires.

"These private schools are not playing a clean game," Chigwedere said. "Nationalisation of these private white racist schools is an option we are not ruling out." Chigwedere said the private schools were racist because they had their roots in the colonial past. He said the schools would do anything to alienate black pupils by charging unaffordable fees. The major element is that white schools like Watershed and Lomagundi are racist. They are conspiring to throw out black pupils by charging fees well beyond the reach of many black parents," said Chigwedere.

Among the allegedly racist white schools were two owned by retired army general Vitalis Zvinavashe, Tynwald primary and high schools.
Investigations by the Independent have revealed that ruling party chefs, including ministers, send their children to upmarket schools such as Hartmann House - a preparatory school for St George's College - Arundel, Heritage and Peterhouse. Analysts have questioned the government's intention to nationalise the schools saying the state does not have the capacity to run them given that it is failing to run its own schools.

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) shadow education minister Fidelis Mhashu said it was too ambitious for the government to think of nationalising private schools anytime soon. "The government is failing to provide adequate facilities to pupils at its schools currently," Mhashu said. "How can it nationalise private schools when it is failing to maintain its own?" Mhashu added: "The arbitrary closure of private schools by Chigwedere in cahoots with the police is illegal. There is no provision in the current Education Act that says the minister (of education) can close schools over increase of fees." The MDC legislator said the government should consider the educational contribution being made by private schools. By nationalising these schools the government will be failing to appreciate the contribution they have made over the years in producing leading bankers, politicians and a number of highly ranked personalities both in government and the private sector," he said.

Zimbabwe's schools are generally classified into grades. Grades A and B are government schools, church schools are grade C, while private (independent) schools fall under grade D. The Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council (Zimsec) provided a list of top 50 advanced level school rankings for last year's November examinations in which government schools were said to have performed better than private ones. No government school however made it into the top 10 category, which was dominated by private church-run schools such as St John's Secondary School and St Ignatius College.

In March, Chigwedere said there was no reason for private schools to increase their fees given that they had a "poor record" in terms of examination results. "We have schools that are charging the highest and are producing the worst academic results," he said, referring to private schools. What Chigwedere conveniently ignored was that the majority of pupils at most private schools prefer to take Cambridge examinations instead of local Zimsec examinations whose marketability is suspect. At St George's College, two-thirds of the pupils wrote "A" level Cambridge examinations and had good grades. Only a third of pupils from private schools wrote Zimsec examinations.
Mhashu said Chigwedere was skirting facts by saying private schools have poor academic results. "This is a classic example of confusion on the part of the minister," Mhashu said. "He is running away from the fact that most students shun local examinations because of the corruption at Zimsec."

In a snap survey, the Independent found that most parents whose children attend private schools prefer to have them write Cambridge examinations. It costs up to $900 000 a term for a pupil to enrol at a government boarding institution such as Goromonzi High School, while a private school like Peterhouse in Marondera charges at least $3,3 million. While fees are seemingly low at government schools, the facilities are far from ideal. Parents fork out hundreds of thousands of dollars for food and other essentials that the schools fail to provide. Pupils attending government schools now have to source their own stationery, including textbooks. They must also bring their own food to supplement the meagre rations provided by the schools. By contrast, private schools provide everything from uniforms to textbooks. The reluctance by the government to increase its per-capita grants to schools is one cause for concern.

In January the dubiety of Zimbabwe's examinations system was exposed at Mnene Primary School in Mberengwa. It was revealed that the school headmaster and three teachers wrote and filled in answer sheets for dozens of grade seven pupils. The then Education permanent secretary Thomson Tsodzo declared that results of more than 50 pupils at the school would stand as genuine. The government has ordered all private schools that had increased their fees to revert to December 2003 fees or they would not be allowed top re-open. "If these private schools continue dilly-dallying and shilly-shallying," Chigwedere warned, "they will remain closed."
Peterhouse, which had increased fees to $9,9 million, has since slashed them to $3,3 million.


The Herald
15 June 2004
Private schools turn to donations

Most private schools in the country have now resorted to donations to top up fees set by the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture, with more than 50 percent of the parents complying. In almost all cases, the ministry set fees well below what the boards of governors of the schools had asked for and appeals for upgrades of fees have been invariably unsuccessful. The ministry said it was setting the levels on the basis of the fees paid in last year's third term and in many cases the fees for all three terms of this year has been about twice that amount. However, the ministry has allowed the schools to raise funds from other sources and to seek donations from parents, but has made it clear that no child may be excluded if the parents have paid the set fee and that there can be no coercion. The schools have informed parents that either extra funds must be raised or the schools would have to change their nature dramatically or even close.

The action of the ministry has seen two major developments at almost all the 20 secondary and 40 primary schools affected. Parents are now having sight of quite detailed accounts and budgets, with some schools even revealing the salary scales of their teachers. The salaries are generally only marginally higher than those enjoyed by their counterparts in the civil service. Secondly, parents have taken the lead in fund-raising with action committees or associations formed at most of the schools to mobilise parental support. All schools have held at least one meeting to explain the position to parents with most having held more than one as action committees report back and seek support for fund-raising ideas. Many of these meetings have seen a lot of ideas come up, some of which have had to be shot down as a breach of conditions set by the ministry. The schools, with only one or two exceptions, seem determined to avoid further confrontations with the ministry and to ensure that everything they do is done within the parameters set by the ministry. Generally parents' meetings have approved budgets set for this term, but have demanded, and been granted, the right to have far more say in how future budgets will be set.

All 60 schools are non-profit organisations with totally voluntary boards and parents forming a majority of these boards, or even the entire board, but some parents feel their views need more weight.

A long-lasting change that the ministry's actions is likely to see is far more parental involvement in the schools, a move generally welcomed by heads and governors. Greater involvement of parents was also desired by the minister, Cde Aeneas Chigwedere, when the crisis hit the schools at the beginning of this term. One common proposal offered at the parents' meetings has been for the "extras" that the schools give to be charged for separately. However, at all but one school, this has been universally rejected after parents were told that the fees set by the ministry were based on the full services offered by the schools. It has also been generally accepted that such a difference in services could be interpreted as coercion.

Only St George's College has pursued this idea with parents invited to sign one of two declarations. The first is for those parents who wish to donate. The second, for the parents who wish to pay only the set fees, states that the parent understands and accepts "that services provided by the College not included under tuition and boarding will either not be available to my son or will be charged for separately". Some parents have objected strongly on the grounds that this breaches the conditions set by the ministry. The recommended declarations come from the Parents-Teachers' Association, not the school itself, and so are not binding on parents.

Amid the general upsurge of parental support, there have been reports that some parents, described as a "small minority", are attempting to line their pockets. Cases have been reported of parents who not only want a refund of anything extra they paid in the first term, but also want interest on this sum. There have also been cases of parents, whose employers have agreed to pay not only the fees, but also the suggested donation, pocketing the donation and just paying the set fee.


Financial Gazette
17 June 2004
Forced fees cut to close schools

BULAWAYO ‘Private schools, stung at the beginning of this term by the government’s decision to close them unless they revised their fees, are to meet soon to decide their fate amid concerns that further impasse may force some of them to shut down. Neil Todd, a consultant with the Association of Trust Schools of Zimbabwe (ATS), told The Financial Gazette this week that some of the schools might have to close before the end of this term if they do not find ways to raise money to meet their commitments.
A circular distributed to parents by the schools says most of them had complied with the education ministry’s directive under duress "solely and expressly" to enable children to return to school pending "immediate appeals to the ministry".

The Ministry of Education barred 48 private schools from reopening for the second term unless they revised their fees downwards. Most schools had increased their fees by up to 500 percent in the first term and wanted to double them in the second term. The ATS says despite assurances by Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere and his permanent secretary, Stephen Mahere, that appeals would be accepted, schools had now been informed that the case had now been closed. It said the directive which forced certain schools to peg fees, in some cases at September 2003 levels, had rendered some insolvent. "This considerable reduction in revenue, which flows from the position taken by the ministry, has serious consequences for the schools, some of which will be rendered insolvent almost immediately and all of which will be facing difficulties in relation to possible contractual and other commitments to staff and suppliers," the circular says. ."Most, if not all ATS schools, risk closure before the end of the second term."
Todd could not say how many schools were in dire straits. He said he would only know this after the meeting, to be held in a week or two. The ATS said there was a lot of ignorance and mistrust on how private schools operated. This, it said, had been amply demonstrated by statements made by the minister on national television where he claimed that the schools were foreign-owned, that they generated huge profits, which they externalised, and that they employed their kith and kin to create employment for whites. The circular also quoted Chigwedere as saying the only reason the schools were hiking fees was to make them unaffordable to blacks. The minister reportedly said that the schools were factories to produce Rhodesians.

"If indeed this was the reality, it is doubtful that ATS schools would enjoy such overwhelming support from Members of Parliament, the armed forces, high-ranking civil service officials and leaders of commerce and industry, who have chosen to have their children educated in our schools," the circular says. It also says the ATS, a loose association of 60 schools comprising 40 primary and 20 secondary, has about 25 000 pupils, adding that it has a central bursary fund presently supporting 200 pupils at a cost of over $120 million.

Schools also have internal bursaries that offer assistance to over 2 000 pupils. In addition, parents of children at private schools invest more than $150 billion a year in education, it says.

"ATS member schools eschew racism and elitism and do not discriminate against pupils in respect of entry. The schools are non-profit making enterprises, owned by trusts. They have no shareholders, no capital reserves and no endowments," the circular says. "The governors receive no financial reward, not even expenses. Fees charged are set at levels sufficient only to recover costs."

Observers said private schools had been severely jolted by the government’s decision to shut them down if they did not revise their fees.
"All along they had thought they were in control, but the ministry’s decision finally showed them who was in control," a teacher who has been working at private schools since 1991 and has served in Mashonaland West, Masvingo and Bulawayo said.

Even the ATS admitted that things had gone haywire. "At the outset, it must be acknowledged that several of the Trust schools were grossly irregular in their non-observance of the (Education) Act and there is need to apologise unreservedly," the circular said. "All schools are now in full compliance and it has been accepted that such behaviour will not be tolerated in the future."


Eaglesvale Reduces Term's Budget By 25pc
The Herald (Harare)
June 21, 2004

EAGLESVALE School, the latest private school to lodge an appeal with the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture over State-recommended school fees, has reduced its second term budget by 25 percent, in its bid to find an acceptable compromise. So far all appeals on the fees set last month for the whole of 2004 have been rejected by the ministry.

Eaglesvale had originally asked parents to pay $3,675 million a term for secondary day pupils. But, after examining the school's accounts, a parents' task force managed to bring the cost of secondary tuition down to $2,725 million. They achieved this by removing subsidies from the fees account for boarding expenses and transport, and by limiting salary increases in the third term. The revised figure of $2,725 million, while 25 percent below the original proposal it is still more than double the $1,2 million it has been allowed to charge by the Government. The school has argued in the past that it could not meet its obligations on $1,2 million, which it considers one of the lowest fees for a private secondary school. The head of the task force, Mr A.C. Georgias, said in the appeal letter that parents were of the opinion that an equitable, reasonable and viable fee must be charged by the school if was to continue to provide the high quality standard of education that it currently provides for its students. Early this month, Mr Georgias said Eaglesvale had to increase its fees from the Government gazetted fees if it was to remain operational and provide quality education.

Most private schools in the country have now turned to donations to top up fees set by the ministry. In almost all cases, fees set by the ministry were well below those requested by the schools' boards of governors. Appeals for upgrades of fees have invariably been unsuccessful. However, the ministry has allowed the schools to raise funds from other sources and seek donations from parents.

The minister, Cde Aneas Chigwedere, has made it clear that no child may be excluded from enjoying all the benefits offered by the school if parents have paid the set fee and that there can be no coercion.


Zim Standard
11 July 2004
Private schools face collapse
By Valentine Maponga

GOVERNMENT'S decision to impose school fees at private schools has had a debilitating effect on the operations of most of the prestigious and well run institutions which are now struggling to stay afloat against a background of dwindling resources, The Standard can reveal.

So bad is the state of affairs that some of the schools have been hit by a mass exodus of teachers due to uncertainties created by the decision by the Minister of Education, Sport and Culture, Aeneas Chigwedere, who began by shutting the schools in order to force them to comply with his ruling. A headmaster at one of the private schools in Harare revealed that this term alone more than five senior teachers had resigned abruptly, creating a crisis at the school. "The imposition of school fees has created some uncertainties and instabilities in the entire private education sector. It looks like most of the teachers are going elsewhere or are preparing to leave the profession because of the confusion being caused by senior officials in the ministry of education." The headmaster, who declined to be named for fear of persecution, said his school had lost senior and highly qualified teachers since the onset of the chaos. "Some of the teachers have left for the private sector while others are now staying outside the country," said the headmaster.

St John's College has also suffered a number of resignations including that of the headmaster, Tony Eysele, who is reported to be contemplating leaving the institution at the end of the year. "We are anticipating that there will be many members of staff who will leave at the end of this year," said Rick Passaportis, the chairman of the board of governors at St John's College.

Sources in the education sector said it was possible some schools could shut down if the situation does not change.
The chairman of Eaglesvale schools, Deon Theron, told The Standard the schools were almost running out of funds and they were being helped by donations from students. "We cannot operate on the fees the government imposed on us. We are currently negotiating with the ministry to see whether they can allow us to increase the fees. We are going to face a lot of problems very soon as we will not be able to settle any accounts," said Theron.

Some school heads said they were failing to cope with the harsh economic conditions prevailing in the country.
"We have had a significant number of senior and junior teachers leaving us because of the stagnant salaries. Inflation is eating into their salaries and as long as it remains like this they will continue to leave," said another headmaster.

In some schools parents are forming liaison committees that are tasked to source money from donors. Headmasters felt there was need to find a lasting solution to the problem, as the issue of donations was a short-term measure. Most of the school authorities said they did not have other sources of income other than school fees.
"This has not been an easy term for us. We had to deal with all our problems with the little resources that we have under these hard economic conditions. At the same time we do not want to lower the standards that we believe are good for the children because of the shortages," said Jacqueline Robertson, the headmistress of Chisipite Senior School. She added that they had managed to somehow cope with the crisis by cutting costs and with the help from parents who had made donations in cash and kind ."The money we get from school fees is the same money we use to pay for food, books and maintain all the good standards we have for the children. That is the only source of income we have," she said.

In the 1990s, Zimbabwe had a literacy rate of 86 per cent, one of the highest in Africa but analysts fear these gains may be eroded if the government does not sort out the mess in the education sector. Most governmental schools have a shortage of stationery and desks. Analysts say he latest confusion to hit private schools which had continued to offer excellent education despite the odds is one of several "bizarre stunts" performed by Chigwedere since his appointment to cabinet.
Professor Gordon Chavhunduka, a veteran educationist said it was unfortunate that the government was concentrating its resources on trivia instead of fighting to improve the quality of education.


VOA
Private Zimbabwe Schools Face Closure
Tendai Maphosa Harare
20 Jul 2004, 13:23 UTC

Some private schools in Zimbabwe could close if the government maintains its tough line on the increase of school fees. The schools might not re-open for the third term in September if the fees issue remains unresolved.
Earlier this year, Zimbabwe's minister of education stopped more than 40 schools from starting the current term, saying they were charging exorbitant fees in a bid to exclude black pupils.

Schools opened after they agreed to lower fees set by the ministry, which does allow parents to make donations to the schools.
School officials say they were merely charging fees that would ensure the children get quality education in difficult economic times.
A spokesperson for the Association of Trust Schools, a body representing 60 schools, says the crisis point is the end of this term, in less than a month.
Speaking on condition of anonymity he said unless meaningful discussions are held most of the schools may be forced not to re-open for the third term. The ministry has set the fees until the end of the year and they can only be reviewed in 2005.

The Association official said the majority of parents are actually paying the fees asked for by the schools, but this is not enough. He added that fees are agreed with the parents who are involved in the drawing of the school budget.

He dismissed the allegation that schools are trying to exclude black pupils, saying the majority of the more than 20-thousand students are black. He said because of the Zimbabwe education ministry's fee cap most of the schools are heavily in debt.

One school not threatened with immediate closure is the Catholic St. Georges High School in Harare. Headmaster Brendan Tiernan says about 87 percent of the parents at the school have paid what the school is asking. He says because of inflation fees cannot remain at the same level.

"The board is trying to keep the fees static for the third term, but that will have to be looked at," said Mr. Tiernan. "Essentially we have two options; we either have to go to the parents and ask them if there is the need for a fee increase, to donate more alternatively there is the possibility of trying to seek legal redress through the courts, but that is a long and involved situation and in the Zimbabwe of 2004 getting an objective judgment urgently from the courts might be quite difficult."
Mr. Tiernan said there has not been an exodus of teachers, but the uncertainty over whether they are going to receive competitive salaries on time could drive some out of the country where he says there is a great demand for teachers.

An editorial in the government-controlled daily newspaper The Herald said myths, some accepted at official level about divisions among parents on racial lines, have now disappeared as the parents combine to preserve what they have chosen to give their children.
But the paper says schools should not demand the donations. This follows allegations that some children were being victimized at some schools because their parents had not paid the donations.
The majority of Zimbabwe's elite, including government ministers, send their children to the private schools.


Long Standing Zimbabwe Private School Faces Closure
Tendai Maphosa Harare
30 Jul 2004, 13:06 UTC

One of Zimbabwe's oldest private schools could be the first casualty of a standoff over fees between private schools and the Education Ministry. The board of Eaglesvale Junior and High Schools has put the school on provisional voluntary liquidation, which means the schools will close when they run out of funds. The chairman of the board of trustees at the school, Deon Theron, said they have been forced into taking what he called the drastic step, as the school was struggling to make ends meet.
The school, founded in 1911, is one of many that were earlier this year stopped from starting the second term by the Education Ministry, which accused them of raising their fees to exclude black pupils. The schools only opened after agreeing to fees set by the ministry. The ministry, however, allowed parents who wished to to make donations to schools.

Mr. Theron says the school received a letter from the ministry earlier this month accusing the school authorities of demanding donations and ordering that it refund the money. To date, Mr.Theron says only 15 parents have demanded their money back. He says it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the standards at the school without running high debts it may be unable to pay.

The school opted for provisional liquidation meaning it can reverse the decision to close down the school, if the situation changes. Mr. Theron says the fees set by the ministry were unrealistic. But, he says, dialogue with the ministry and an agreement to increase fees is the only way the school can remain open. He dismissed the allegations that the schools were trying to keep out black pupils, saying that, of the approximately 1,000 pupils at the coed institution 70 percent of the junior pupils are black, while 80 percent of the high school students are black.

Most of Zimbabwe's elite, including government ministers, prefer to send their children to private schools.State Set to Take Over Failed Private Schools


The Herald (Harare)
August 6, 2004

GOVERNMENT will take over any private school that fails to survive with the present fees and will run it itself. The warning came in a long meeting on Monday between the Minister of Education, Sport and Culture, Cde Aeneas Chigwedere, top ministry officials and heads, trustees and parents of the schools loosely grouped under the Association of Trust Schools. One of the trust schools, Eaglesvale, has already called in a liquidator and has applied for voluntary provisional liquidation so that it can continue to operate until it runs out of money.

The minister and his officials, who included the permanent secretary to the ministry, Dr Stephen Mahere, stressed that the Government was not seeking to take over the schools, but would not allow any to close. Cde Chigwedere said by intervening and mediating in private school business, Government was not intending to take them over, but to restore sanity. In fact, Government, he said, had always accepted education as a partnership with the parents. The meeting is the latest and largest in the debate between the private schools and the ministry.

At the beginning of the second term, the ministry slashed the legal fees that the schools were allowed to charge, in most cases to well below half what the schools had calculated they needed to maintain the standards and services that they traditionally offer.

On Monday, the minister and his officials said the trust schools could continue to hire their own teachers and would not have teachers from the Public Service imposed on them. Nevertheless, they made it clear that these teachers had to be paid from sources other than compulsory fees and levies.

The issue of staffing is at the centre of the debate on fees. The private schools all have low ratios of teachers to pupils, usually considerably lower than the ratios applied in Government schools. They also hire their own staff, rather than have personnel from the Public Service who would be assigned and paid by the ministry and could be transferred on 24 hours' notice.

Most parents regard the small classes and the right of schools to select their own staff to be the biggest single advantage of the private schools. The private schools not only have small classes but also employ several specialised teachers and a large group of other staff to provide the extra facilities and services that parents want. The ministry disagrees and believes that class sizes have no bearing on the quality of education offered by the schools. The minister and his officials believe that costing for small classes is exploiting parents. The ministry also believes that 40 percent of school income must be spent directly on the pupils, otherwise parents are being exploited. The schools and the vast majority of parents believe that money spent on staff is being spent directly on their children.

Cde Chigwedere said the parents should determine the expenditure of their income. "Teachers, office, kitchen and grounds staff are the parents' employees so their salaries should not be a secret to them. If you spend less than 40 percent of your school income directly on children, you are exploiting the parents," he said.
The ministry also wants schools run by boards to have half these boards elected by parents and to have a ministry representative included. Some schools have already initiated this change. The ministry sees all schools belonging to the parents regardless of the responsible authority, hence the need for parents to have a strong say in school affairs. "We accept that schools cannot all belong to one category, but we cannot allow free rein to the boards. Do not forget where we came from, the era of racism. You have to convince Government that you are not continuing to promote the racism of yore," he told the board members and trustees.

Fee and levy increases for next year should be submitted to Dr Mahere by the end of October. The minister promised that his permanent secretary would respond by the end of November.
Several schools complained that Government took long to respond last term, forcing some of them to proceed to implement the new fees without approval. Because of this, many hiccups took place during the second term, with 45 private schools opening a week later. Government delayed the opening of some schools for a week after the schools directed parents to pay proposed fees and levies before the ministry had authorised them to do so. The Government then set fees that it considered suitable for the schools. Some parents have in the past complained that the salaries teachers at private schools earned were too highHowever, the schools have pointed out that the salaries they pay staff are not much higher than the Public Service rates and, in fact, some schools were paying their staff less than Public Service teachers in the first term.
The high ratio of experienced staff on most private school payrolls does add to the salaries bill as all teachers' pay scales, in both private and public sectors, have a significant seniority factor.

On the donations to schools, Cde Chigwedere said there was nothing like a compulsory "voluntary donation".
"That is illegal. Children of those that do not contribute to these donations are not to be penalised in any way," he warned.
The ministry team was also concerned about nomenclature. Although the schools are commonly called private or independent, they are, in fact, legally non-government schools in terms of the Education Act, which divides Zimbabwean schools into government and non-government. All schools not run by the Government itself, such as local authority, mission and what are loosely called the private or trust schools, fall into the non-government category.


Zim Independent
Chigwedere orders private schools to return donations
Augustine Mukaro

EDUCATION minister Aeneas Chigwedere has directed all schools that have requested parents to make donations to reimburse them or credit the amounts to next term's fees. He said such donations, raised to keep the schools afloat, were illegal.

A number of private schools had asked parents to donate money following government's slashing of their fees.
A letter addressed to Arundel School demands that the school should refund the parents their money or credit it to next term's fees as it was a violation of the Education Act.
"The notion of donations which are compulsorily exacted, as in this case, is an obvious illegality," the letter says.

"It should be noted that these voluntary donations are not authorised by my ministry and are a clear contravention of Section 21 (1) (a) and (b) of the Education Act. Accordingly, all monies collected in this manner should be refunded to the parents or credited to the next term's fees."
Arundel School had created a Refundable Security Deposit and a Deficit Funds schemes through which parents would donate extra funds to help the school keep afloat.
Through the funds parents were expected to pay extra fees of up to $3,8 million.

The refundable security deposit had been pegged at $3, 2 million, deficit fees per day pupil at $690 000 and deficit fees for boarding at $760 000.
A similar letter has been sent to Eaglesvale School which has sought voluntary liquidation following the ministry's order that it can't raise any further funds."


FinGaz
Comment
Enough is enough
8/13/2004

ZIMBABWE'S education system has been the envy of many a country across continents. Standards however plummeted over the years and it was rapidly losing its creme de la creme status, but Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere, whose actions even this country's best brains have failed to understand, now threatens to destroy what was left of it with a single swing of a political blade!

Indeed, thanks to the Minister's arrogance and conceit, the country's education system has been plunged into an unprecedented crisis which could see it terrifyingly deteriorate into a disastrous condition as did the health delivery system before it. Notwithstanding that the ruins must not obstruct the prospects, it goes without saying that in the short term, Zimbabwe will find it difficult to restore integrity and credibility in the education system to return it to its pre-crisis levels.

First, it was the bungling in the country's discredited public examination system administered by the much-maligned Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council (ZIMSEC). Who would forget that embarrassing debacle where pupils reportedly studied wrong set books or syllabi and received results for subjects they did not sit for? Then came the scapegoating Ministry's specious and spurious but self-evidently absurd and ludicrous claims that they delayed registering candidates for this year's "O" and "A" level examinations because of the drought of all things! Unbelievable? Well this was how it was matter-of-factly "explained" to Parliament by one Isaiah Mushayamwando Shumba, Chigwedere's deputy, without any tinge of irony!

As if that was not enough, Chigwedere, who many had been hoping against hope to return the education system back onto the rails and peace back to our souls, sought to destroy private schools, the odd shaft of light amidst the ruins of what was once a quality system of education. Admittedly, expensive does not mean discerning but these schools had a critical stabilising influence in the troubled education sector given that there are no functional libraries, laboratories, recreational facilities and not to mention the debilitating acute shortage of teachers at most of the public schools. Of course, this obvious fact was conveniently lost on Chigwedere who, in his ruinous "wisdom", believes that the schools are a bastion of capitalistic privilege and racial discrimination. Nothing could, however, be further from the truth because the majority of pupils at the schools are black. And the evidence is there for all to see.

Chigwedere started off by instilling the fear of God in private school heads who had been targets of much unjustified rhetoric after they refused to yield to the Minister's arm-twisting tactics to reduce fees to ostensibly cushion hard-pressed parents against exorbitant fees. Unfortunately, there is no obvious merit in the altruistic-sounding Minister's destructive actions which do not create even a remote semblance of a false impression of novelty. "Reducing fees to cushion the parents", who have the passion to sacrifice for their children's life-time meal-ticket, is a big lie. It is an old, worn-out, threadbare platitudinous cliche, which dovetails with populist policies of a government for whom there is a credibility gap between election pledges and policies implemented but is now desperate to appease a sceptical and disenchanted populace.

What seems lost on Chigwedere, who cuts the image of a control freak, and those of his ilk is that while the magic influence of populist phraseology - the opium of Zimbabwean politicians - can be strong and irresistible, the voice of reason and influence of realities should not be ignored except when making politically expedient decisions.
But typical of some of Zimbabwe's misguided ruling clique who think that they monopolise patriotism, common sense, reason and objectivity, he ignored this and the fate of private schools is hanging by a thread. These schools are haemorrhaging and they face the spectre of bankruptcy proceedings as creditors could soon be scrambling for their assets. And if they do not get a stay of execution, which is very likely, this could have far-reaching consequences for scores of pupils on whose scholastic development, the salvation of this great nation is dependent.

Chigwedere's frontal attack on private schools has left many with purely psychological questions. Does Chigwedere who has the knack for turning everything he touches into dust (Remember how President Mugabe had to order him to back off matters football?) - understand the scale of catastrophe that could befall the education system? Does he have a strategy as regards the future of these schools? Highly unlikely! Forget about his constant hollow assurances that government would take over the schools. This cannot mislead even the common ruck of folk who previously would swallow hook, line and sinker, government's empty declarations.

The capacity just isn't there. In any case, the cash-strapped government has since scaled down on its services to the public as can be exemplified by the appalling state of affairs at institutions such as Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, Harare Hospital, Mpilo Hospital, the University of Zimbabwe, Harare Polytechnic and scores of government schools dotted around the country - the list is endless. How then can Chigwedere pretend that government has the financial wherewithal to take-over the troubled schools? Please! Or if government has the financial resources as Chigwedere would like us to believe, why can't it channel those resources towards propping up collapsing government schools throughout the country? Why was the situation allowed to deteriorate to those desperate levels? Is Chigwedere implying that it was just a question of upside-down priorities? The mind boggles! We wonder what the fractious and irascible all-knowing individuals whose duty it is to defend the government will have to say about the state of complete disorder and confusion wrought on education by Chigwedere!

We have said this before and we will say it again. With Ministers like Chigwedere, who do not seem to know that government has pledged that education is at the centre of its social development agenda, what government needs saboteurs? True we have had this strange policy called collective responsibility in government which tends to mask the gross incompetence and ineptitude of a number of government officials. But this one should be blamed squarely on the shoulders of the bungling Ministry of Education. And heads must roll starting with Chigwedere - who remains in Cabinet simply because government does not have quality control. That is why we said in our editorial of November 21 2003 that Chigwedere must go: As has been said before, a fish rots from the head! He will not be missed. It will be good riddance.
Zimbabwe's Private Schools Open for Final Term Tendai Maphosa Harare 08 Sep 2004, 13:59 UTC

All private schools in Zimbabwe have reopened for the final school term, but some still face an uncertain future because government approved fees fall short of meeting their budgets. The schools opened on schedule this week. There were doubts that some of the schools would continue operating because their costs exceed the amounts raised from the fees imposed by the government last term.

Most prominent among them is Eaglesvale school, one of the country's oldest schools, which had placed itself on provisional liquidation as it could not meet its expenses.
The school was thrown a lifeline when the Education Ministry revised its fees upwards. Ministry Secretary Stephen Mahere told the government daily, The Herald, that the ministry could not allow the school to close.

But Eaglesvale board of trustees chairman Deon Theron says the new fees are still not enough and the school remains on provisional liquidation. He hopes parents will make more donations.

The Association of Trustee Schools is the umbrella body of private schools. Its chairman, David Long, says most of the students' parents are paying the difference between expenses and the government approved fees to keep the schools going. He says, "Schools are wholly dependent on the goodwill of parents."
Mr. Long says schools continue to appeal to the ministry to relax its fee schedule. But he says the government appears to be sticking to its requirements and schools will need to apply for an increase in 2005. He says this means some schools remain under threat of closure in Zimbabwe's hyperinflationary economy.
The government says it capped fees because the schools tried to exclude black children. But the schools deny the allegation, pointing out that the majority of their pupils are black. The children of Zimbabwe's elite, including government ministers, attend private schools.


Zimbabwe's Private Schools Open for Final Term
Tendai Maphosa Harare
08 Sep 2004, 13:59 UTC

All private schools in Zimbabwe have reopened for the final school term, but some still face an uncertain future because government approved fees fall short of meeting their budgets. The schools opened on schedule this week. There were doubts that some of the schools would continue operating because their costs exceed the amounts raised from the fees imposed by the government last term.

Most prominent among them is Eaglesvale school, one of the country's oldest schools, which had placed itself on provisional liquidation as it could not meet its expenses. The school was thrown a lifeline when the Education Ministry revised its fees upwards. Ministry Secretary Stephen Mahere told the government daily, The Herald, that the ministry could not allow the school to close. But Eaglesvale board of trustees chairman Deon Theron says the new fees are still not enough and the school remains on provisional liquidation. He hopes parents will make more donations.

The Association of Trustee Schools is the umbrella body of private schools. Its chairman, David Long, says most of the students' parents are paying the difference between expenses and the government approved fees to keep the schools going. He says, "Schools are wholly dependent on the goodwill of parents."
Mr. Long says schools continue to appeal to the ministry to relax its fee schedule. But he says the government appears to be sticking to its requirements and schools will need to apply for an increase in 2005. He says this means some schools remain under threat of closure in Zimbabwe's hyperinflationary economy.
The government says it capped fees because the schools tried to exclude black children. But the schools deny the allegation, pointing out that the majority of their pupils are black. The children of Zimbabwe's elite, including government ministers, attend private schools.


FinGaz
Blackmail at private schools: a personal experience
Charles Rukuni 9/9/2004 7:37:12 AM (GMT +2)

I HAD to withhold tears as I watched my eight-year old daughter sob when I told her I could not fill her raffle form. Her teacher wanted it that day. She had been given the form almost a month back, but I had not been able to get sponsors. She had brought several raffle forms before and I had filled them promptly, giving her the amount that was required. I had not sought outside sponsors. My wife had, however, occasionally sought sponsorship from her workmates. But this raffle was different. It was not even a raffle. It was a devious way by my daughter's school to get me to pay increased fees that had been turned down by Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere.

I was broke and had even made a request to pay the school fees in instalments. The fees had gone up by nearly 170 percent in the first term and now the school wanted to double the first term's fees. I could not afford to pay the additional fees both physically and on moral grounds, but as I watched my daughter sob, not understanding my financial problems or what I was going through, I felt cheated and robbed at the blatant extortion the school had resorted to. While I was prepared to pay any fees that the school charged, because I had made a personal choice to send my children there, I was not prepared to be used as a pawn either by the school or the minister. The two had to come clean and settle their scores without sandwiching me in between. The way things were, I would be a loser either way, but what disturbed me most was how the school was using me, as a parent, to fight its battle with the minister, lying that I had approved the fee increase.

The school was quite aware that under the Education Act it had to have the approval of parents to increase fees, but apparently it had been doing so for some years without my approval because of lax controls in the ministry.

Even the Association of Trust Schools, which represents private schools, had admitted in a circular to parents that: ". . . it must be acknowledged that several of the Trust schools were grossly irregular in their non-observance of the Act and there is need to apologise unreservedly."
Though the schools were quite aware, according to the circular, that under the Education Act, no responsible authority "shall charge any fee, or increase the same by more than the prescribed amount or percentage in any period of 12 months unless such increase has been approved by the Secretary (of Education)" from as far back as 2001, everyone had been doing his or her own thing.

"In 2002," the circular went on, "the Permanent Secretary delegated authority to receive, assess and decide on applications to regional directors and since then difficulties have arisen with increased frequency, including: lack of acknowledgement or response; applications 'lost" etc.
"Given such frustrations, the rapid acceleration of inflation and the need to send out fee invoices to ensure that schools opened on time and had sufficient operating income; schools had increased fees without approval on the assumption that 'no refusal' was a tacit approval."
To me, it appeared Chigwedere had merely stepped in to restore sanity, just like central bank governor Gideon Gono had clamped down on the financial sector to restore order.
His methods may have been crude, but it was probably because of the arrogance displayed by the private schools, which continued to defy his directives through various methods that they were employing to ensure that parents paid the fees they wanted.
I do not like to be misunderstood. I am prepared to pay any fees the school charges, but what I will not stomach is to be forced to accept that I agreed to the fees when I did not and was not consulted, but merely told that this was what I had to pay.

My daughter's school first sent out circulars advising me about the proposed fee increases and asked me to agree to or reject the fee increases. It looks like it received a very poor response because the school board called a parents' meeting at which it wanted the parents to endorse the fee increase. Some parents argued that the school could not just increase fees at will, especially since the budget it had presented only had the expenditure without revenue which parents believed the school had made from its investments because of the high interest rates that prevailed towards the end of last year and during the first term.

Though 75 percent of the expenditure was on teachers' salaries, parents were more concerned about whether the fee was justified or the school merely wanted to screen the poor. The meeting almost broke down when one of the parents said those who could not afford the proposed fees should withdraw their children. Parents were, once again, asked to fill slips asking them whether they agreed to the new fees or not. It appears the school did not get the response it wished for, because it called for another parents' meeting, but this time, parents were asked to meet in small groups.

With three children at the school, it meant I could not attend three meetings at the same time. I did not attend any of the meetings because it was now evident that the school was trying to use a divide-and-rule tactic.

Parents could not take advantage of their numbers to gauge the majority view. And without anyone taking count of who voted for what in each small group, parents were, once again, at the mercy of school authorities. It was after these meetings flopped again that the school introduced the raffle. Though it was titled: "Fund Raising Raffle" with the first prize being 100 percent discount for third term fees or 50 percent cash equivalent and the fourth prize being a 25 percent discount, the raffle had a minimum sponsorship of $10 000 per line. One had to fill in all columns. Interestingly, the columns on the raffle forms were equivalent to the balance parents were supposed to pay to meet the new fees turned down by the government. Children whose parents had paid the new fees were not given raffle forms. For me, this was the last straw. Why did the school not just come clean, and say "pay the new fees or else". But what was even more disturbing was the frequency with which teachers demanded the raffle forms back from the children and the number of circulars that I started getting.

It also appeared that some people were trying to settle old scores through the fee issue. One circular, for example, had this to say:
"On the surface it may seem right for the government of the day to protect its citizens from unwarranted increases in school fees. Closer examination however reveals that it is not as simple as this. The fact is that the schools are not shielded from economic realities of our time, such as wage increases and the escalating cost of consumables and school maintenance in an environment of hyperinflation.

"It is our observation that it is not the private schools which are responsible for making bad economic decisions but rather those charged with the governing of our country. Most private schools are run on a non-profit making basis and are content simply to balance their expenditure against their fee income.
"No, the real issue here is the failed economic policies of this regime. If the economy was sound and inflation was kept at manageable levels, then schools would not need to increase fees significantly. It is the collapse of the national economy which has necessitated the increases in school fees term on term.

"The unpalatable but inescapable truth is that the cause of our present predicament is bad governance. A failed administration is now desperately trying to find scapegoats to divert attention from its own manifest failures. Any school worth its salt is bound to increase its fees to the level required to maintain hard-won standards."
Having grown up in the colonial era, my stomach turned whenever someone mentioned "standards" because the so-called maintenance of standards was used to shut blacks out of the economy for almost a century.

"What is the regime's motive, we ask, for the unlawful forced closures of the private schools at the beginning of the second term?" the circular went on. "Is it simply a measure of their success in providing quality education which government schools have generally failed to do - another embarrassing reminder of bad governance?
"Another more sinister interpretation of the regime's motive is that the forced closure of the private schools is a part of a larger plan to destroy all pockets of independent thought. The private schools have become in our time icons of free and liberal thinking, which the regime is no longer willing to tolerate.

"By the same token they are perceived by an authoritarian regime as places in which dissent is encouraged, together with an alternative vision for the nation. The irony is of course that Mr Mugabe himself went to a Catholic mission school, Kutama, where he was given the opportunity and encouraged to think freely. Since he sends his own children to private schools we must assume that he still values this quality.

"On this interpretation the regime's motives are downright evil. They imply a deliberate intention to destroy the urban middle class, black and white, in order to create a totally dependent and subservient population of peasants, to whom the idea of independent thought would be taboo . . . "
As I watched my daughter sob, I began to wonder, who was using the children as pawns? But I had no choice. I had to pay the fees. What I was doing was morally wrong, but my daughter's welfare came first.

I had had a bitter experience before. In the eighties when I was with the Chronicle, I was assigned to do a story about doctors who gave workers "sick letters" to get time off work when they were not ill at all. I was asked by my editor to name the doctors and was given a by-line though I had insisted that my name should not be used.
This must have irked the doctors because one of them, one of the few that worked on Sunday, refused to treat my son six years later. I don't want the same to happen to my children now.

But, one could rightly ask, if I am so concerned about my children, why did I write this story? I had to get this out because, according to Alex Molokoane of Alex Hair in South Africa, blacks have been indoctrinated to expect appalling service for so long that they still have to be educated to expect good service.
Molokoane, who is quoted in the book: "Revelling in the Wild - Business lessons out of Africa" says: "It's a terrible thing, but in the past they have been made to feel as though the service provider of the product or service was doing them a favour by serving them . . .

"The one thing that I've realised about black people is that if you give them good service, they'll come back to you. But if you give them bad service, they won't complain, they'll just walk away. The only time I realised that we black people complain is when we are already fighting, like when we believe we have been really wronged?"
The truth is I want my children to get a good education. But I do not want to live my neighbour's life by pretending that I can afford it, when I am borrowing left, right and centre, just to keep my children at school - and probably protect my ego as well.

The new fees are just too much for me. While the Central Statistics Office, which calculates inflation, weighs education fees at only 3.4 percent, the current fees consume 62 percent of my monthly income.
Though this is my choice, I don't want to live a lie.


The Standard
Private schools take Chigwedere to court
27 December 2004

FIFTEEN private schools have made an urgent High Court Chamber application seeking a provisional order barring the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture and the police from gazetting fees as well as interfering with the operations of schools, The Standard can reveal.

Court documents in the possession of The Standard cite the Minister of Education, Sport and Culture, Aeneas Chigwedere, his permanent secretary Stephen Mahere and the Commissioner of Police, Augustine Chihuri, as the respondents. The school authorities are also seeking to bar Chigwedere and the police from arresting or causing arrest of any head teacher or teachers of any of the schools when they open on January 11 next year. The applicants argued that by fixing the fees, Chigwedere erred because Section 21 of the Education Act (chapter 25:04) restricts him to approving or rejecting fee applications and not set the fees. Apart from that, they said, Chigwedere did not afford the school authorities or their representatives an opportunity to make presentations to him to provide reasons for setting the fees at a certain level. "Pending the final determination of those and any further appeals, the applicants and other members of the Association of Trust Schools may collect fees and levies based on the fee and levy structure set by the applicants or such other responsible authorities and submitted to the first respondent (Chigwedere) with the approval of parent bodies," reads the provisional order.

In a founding affidavit, a representative of the Association of Trust Schools, Jameson Timba said the closure of schools should be prohibited. "Accordingly, whatever differences there may be over school fees payable for next year, we are anxious to ensure that there is no repetition of the school closures and arrests at the start of our next school term on January 11th 2005," said Timba. For the applicants, Abraham Kudzai Muguchu of Dube, Manikai & Hwacha said early this month Chigwedere fixed fees averaging only 55 percent of those the schools and parents had agreed on. Muguchu said Chigwedere had no power in law to fix fees for non-government schools and "has accordingly exceeded his authority and these orders must therefore be set aside." He said the fixing of school fees would lead to the deterioration of services and facilities at the affected schools. Chigwedere is supposed to make a determination within seven days of the service of the provisional order, made on the 20th of December, failure of which it shall be deemed that he has concurred. At the start of the second term this year, a number of headmasters were arrested and at least 47 schools briefly closed on grounds that they had charged fees and levies not authorised by the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture.


School Fees Dispute Spills Into Courts
The Herald (Harare)
January 7, 2005

THE dispute over the ratification of this year's proposed school fees by some private schools has spilled into the courts after the Government rejected the fee levels, saying they were not justified. Last week the Association of Trust Schools and 14 other private schools took the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Cde Aeneas Chigwedere, to the High Court, challenging his decision to reject their proposals. The 14 private schools had proposed fees for this term of between $15 million and $28 million including levies, which the Secretary for Education reduced.Dissatisfied with the secretary's decision, the schools appealed to the minister to set it aside. After analysing and evaluating the appeal on the basis of the proposed amounts, Cde Chigwedere made slight upward adjustments. However, the schools, unhappy with the new levels, resolved to continue with the appeal process laid down in the Education Act, leading to litigation at the High Court. The schools are also seeking interim relief stopping the minister from closing the schools in the event of an impasse on the ratification and implementation of the proposed fees and are seeking permission to demand the proposed fees and levies pending the determination of the case by the High Court.

Justice Rita Makarau, who heard the case sitting in her chambers, granted an interim relief, slightly changed from the original draft order, with the consent of the ministry, represented by Mr Clement Muchenga of the Civil Division in the Attorney General's Office.

Mr Muchenga on Wednesday said the private schools were granted an order that no schools were to be closed or threatened with closure pending the finalisation of the case. "The applicants or other members of the Association of Trust Schools could charge the fees and levies set by the minister pending appeals lodged with the High Court," said Mr Muchenga. He said during the hearing, the schools, through their lawyer Advocate Eric Matinenga, had argued that the fees that had slightly been increased by the minister were insufficient to finance their operations. But Justice Makarau noted that the schools could not charge fees they had set because in terms of the Education Act, fees and levies had to be approved first by the Secretary for Education, Mr Muchenga said. "We are now waiting for the court to determine whether the fees set by the minister are reasonable or not," he said.

The schools which are challenging the ministry's decision include Peterhouse high schools for boys and girls in Marondera, which proposed $28 million and $20 million respectively; Watershed, $20 million; Lomagundi College, $20 million; Hillcrest College, $25,8 million; Falcon College, $23 million; Whitestone primary, $21 million; while Chisipite and Arundel proposed $16 million each. These are all fees for boarders.

Arundel, one of the schools that have notified the High Court of their intention to appeal, said Cde Chigwedere erred in failing to remedy the ultra vires decisions of the secretary by not appreciating that under Education Act, the secretary has no power to reset a fee as applied for by a school. Cde Chigwedere, the school said, erred and acted ultra-vires the Act by failing to appreciate that the power of the minister was restricted to either upholding or dismissing an appeal in terms of the provisions of the Act, and not to reset the fees for the appellant. "The respondent, instead of making decision that the Secretary ought to have made, adjusted the fees slightly thereby setting another fee himself well below what the school, in consultation with parents, had set and agreed," read part of the grounds of appeal by Arundel.

"The Secretary and, subsequently, the Minister did not act lawfully, reasonably and in a fair manner as required by the provisions of the Administrative Justice Act of December 2004 in resetting the fees," the school argues. The ministry, it is further argued, made unreasonable and unfair decisions that could affect the rights, interests and legitimate expectations of many people, especially the responsible authority, pupils, parents and guardians. The date to hear the case is yet to be announced.

Cde Chigwedere, speaking on a Zimbabwe Television live programme, Face The Nation, on Thursday last week, confirmed that the schools were granted an interim relief on the matter. He, however, said his ministry had since gathered information on the operations of the schools and was convinced that the proposed increases were not justified.
Cde Chigwedere said investigations conducted by his ministry revealed that some of the private schools were, going by the ministry's standards, grossly overstaffed and that 70 percent of their expenditure went towards teachers' salaries which could be catered for by the Government. He said while the ministry appreciated the impact of inflation on school budgets, there was need for parents to know that they were being cheated in some cases. Staffing levels have been a bone of contention between parents and the ministry, with most parents preferring the small classes offered by the schools while the ministry says that there is nothing to gain from such class sizes. The high proportion of total costs absorbed by salaries for teachers and support staff has been accepted at most parents meetings.


New school fees structure on cards
Daily Mirror, Zimbabwe
The Daily Mirror Reporter issue date :2006-Mar-01

THE House of Assembly yesterday passed the Education Amendment Bill (H.B 6C 2005), which if assented to by President Robert Mugabe, will provide guidelines for fees and levies increases in non-governmental schools.

The proposed law sailed through the assembly as amended by the Senate and also after the House was divided and Zanu PF won 45 votes against the MDC's 21 in support of the Bill. The Bill proposes that school fees and levies increases shall not be over the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as released by the Central Statistical Office (CSO) every month, that fees and levies for day pupils provided with food at a school are not more than 40 percent of the fees and levies paid by boarders, while those not provided with meals would pay not more than 30 percent. It empowers the permanent secretary in the ministry of education to set the fees.

The Senate scratched a provision proposed by Bulawayo North-East legislator, Professor Welshman Ncube that the new fee structure would not apply to fees and levies existing on the day the law come into effect. Chitungwiza legislator, Fidelis Mhashu criticised the amendments by the Senate saying the removal of the provision proposed by Ncube was tantamount to applying the law in retrospect. "The removal would result in the application of the law in retrospect. Those schools whose fees are below the CPI will force parents to pay more while those that are higher would be asked to refund and this would dislocate their budgets," he said. He added that by stipulating the percentage of fees, day scholars fees would not take into account the different needs and situations of schools. Mutare Central legislator for MDC, Innocent Gonese also opposed the amendments and accused the Minister of Education, Sport and Culture, Aeneas Chigwedere (Hwedza MP), of trying to control schools. "The Attorney General's office suggested an improvement on the proviso by Ncube and not changing it. "The minister owes us an explanation on who moved the motion in Senate to delete the proviso. His intention has always been to control schools," he said.

Chigwedere moved the motion in the Senate to delete Ncube's proposals that had been adopted by the House of Assembly. However, Chigwedere shot down the criticisms levelled at him saying his ministry had arrived at the new school fees and levies determination format in consultations with non-governmental schools. "This came from trust schools and we thought it was reasonable. If a school wants a figure above the CPI then they should apply to the permanent secretary. We also don't mean to apply the law in retrospect that is out, no court will allow that," he said. On how the ministry had arrived at percentages for day scholars, Chigwedere said this was after a realisation that most schools spend less than 30 percent of their income on teaching and learning materials. "Trust schools use less than 30 percent on teaching and learning most of them spend between 25 and 30 percent," he said. The issue of determination of school fees between government and private schools began two years ago when Chigwedere closed some of the schools and arrested some headmasters for charging fees that were above government gazetted prices. The schools then took the matter to the High Court and a ruling was passed barring Chigwedere from determining fees for the private schools. The House of Assembly immediately adjourned after the Bill's third reading and will resume sitting on March 28.

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