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Zimbabwe Government Threatens to Abolish Uniforms at Some Schools - 2004-01-08

The Zimbabwean government is threatening to abolish uniforms at some schools because they have become too expensive. The sharp increase in the price of uniforms follows massive school fee hikes. There is concern that the increased costs of education may result in thousands of children not going to school this year.

The government made its threat Wednesday, saying while school uniforms are compulsory, no school has the right to bar children without uniforms.

Making the announcement, Secretary for Education Thompson Tsodzo said the directive was a response to appeals by parents against what he called unauthorized hikes in uniform prices.

This year, parents are being asked to pay as much as three times last year's price for school uniforms. The prices are far beyond the ability of most Zimbabwean workers.

Children at all government schools and most private schools in Zimbabwe are required to wear some kind of uniform, and children whose parents can not afford them are normally not allowed to attend.

Mr. Tsodzo also warned school heads against increasing school fees without government approval.

Most schools in Zimbabwe have announced that their fees would be going up substantially this year. Some schools have announced fees increased by as much as 2,000 percent.

The school fee hikes have led to fears that many parents, already burdened with an inflation rate 620 percent, will not be able to send their children to school this year.