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Most Zimbabwean Private Schools Reopen Under Government Pressure to Reduce Fees - 2004-05-11

All but one of the 46 Zimbabwean private schools ordered closed last week by the minister of education have re-opened, after they agreed to reduce their fees.

It is lessons as usual for the private schools, after they gave in to pressure from minister of education Aeneas Chigwedere to reduce their fees. The only school holding out is the Catholic run St. George's High in the capital, Harare.

The education minister last week barred the private schools from re-opening for a new term, accusing the mostly former all-white institutions of hiking fees in an effort to exclude black children. The majority of the 30,000 students in the schools are black.

Two of the schools on the minister's hit list are owned by a former commander of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, General Vitalis Zvinavashe.

Most of Zimbabwe's professionals send their children to private schools, which they consider better than state-run schools. The private schools attended by President Robert Mugabe's children and some senior members of his administration are among those that were shut down by Mr. Chigwedere.

The schools were accused of breaking the law by hiking their fees above the prescribed 10 percent limit without government permission. The schools said they applied for the increases, which they said were necessary to keep up with the rampant inflation, but have never heard back.

A spokesperson for St. George's said it could not afford to stay open if it agreed to tuition increases proposed by the government.