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Zimbabwe's Private Schools Open for Final Term - 2004-09-08


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.

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