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Zimbabwe's private schools go to court


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By Staff Reporter

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. 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 30-thousand school children, 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.

Scores of irate parents and our readers rang and e-mailed to register their dismay at the government decision to shut down the scools, 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.

The parents said there was no option for the schools but to increase fees because of Zimbabwe's inflation rate of 600 per cent, the highest in the world.

But the Zimbabwe government sees otherwise.

"We are dealing with racist schools. They are all former white schools - all racist," Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere told state media.

"They throw Africans out simply by hiking fees."

A fuming Dr Nomusa Dlodlo said: "I am an indigenous Zimbabwean, who is patriotic and concerned about seeing the ducation deteriorate. I pay through my nose to see my child get a quality education, hence it is by choice that my child is in that school. We sit as the PTA to determine the fees. So, why then should my child be denied access to an education when I, the parent, is willing to pay such monies."

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.
Additional reporting VOA
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