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By Staff Reporter

POLICE in Zimbabwe have detained several head teachers after the recent closure of 45 private schools.
The teachers were arrested during overnight raids across the country, including in the capital, Harare, and the second city, Bulawayo.

Police were deployed to the schools on Tuesday to prevent them re-opening for the new term in a row over fee hikes.

A court has ordered that one of Harare's top schools be reopened, the AFP news agency reports.

A state lawyer did not contest the request by parents and teachers from Hartmann House Preparatory School, AFP says.

At least three head teachers have been arrested and unconfirmed reports say several more have also been detained.

New has been told that the Headmaster of Falcon College in Matabeleland South, Reg Guerl, was picked up early Thursday morning and was due to appear in court later on the same day.

Police later arrested the deputy chairman of the Board of Governors at the school, Andy Laing after he told the police he was responsible for hiking fees not the headmaster, according to his son John.

Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere accused the schools of massively increasing fees to keep out blacks.

"They throw Africans out simply by hiking fees," he said on state television.

"We are dealing with racist schools. They are all former white schools, all racist."

Some 30,000 schoolchildren have been affected. The South African Press Agency reports that most of those who attend the private schools are black.

The governing bodies of 17 schools around Bulawayo have filed legal challenges to the closure, reports the AFP news agency.

"What the ministry has done is illegal," a lawyer for the schools around Bulawayo, Richard Majwabu, told AFP.

"The ministry is not punishing the schools but the students," he said.

The challenges are due to be heard on Friday, he said.

Other schools are reducing the scale of their price hikes so they can reopen, reports the state-run Herald newspaper.

Schools must seek permission to increase fees by more than 10%. Annual inflation is currently more than 580%.

Some school officials have accused the ministry of being slow to approve fee hikes.

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