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Long Standing Zimbabwe Private School Faces Closure - 2004-07-30

One of Zimbabwe's oldest private schools could be the first casualty of a standoff over fees between private schools and the Education Ministry. The board of Eaglesvale Junior and High Schools has put the school on provisional voluntary liquidation, which means the schools will close when they run out of funds.

The chairman of the board of trustees at the school, Deon Theron, said they have been forced into taking what he called the drastic step, as the school was struggling to make ends meet.

The school, founded in 1911, is one of many that were earlier this year stopped from starting the second term by the Education Ministry, which accused them of raising their fees to exclude black pupils.

The schools only opened after agreeing to fees set by the ministry. The ministry, however, allowed parents who wished to to make donations to schools.

Mr. Theron says the school received a letter from the ministry earlier this month accusing the school authorities of demanding donations and ordering that it refund the money. To date, Mr.Theron says only 15 parents have demanded their money back. He says it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the standards at the school without running high debts it may be unable to pay.

The school opted for provisional liquidation meaning it can reverse the decision to close down the school, if the situation changes. Mr. Theron says the fees set by the ministry were unrealistic. But, he says, dialogue with the ministry and an agreement to increase fees is the only way the school can remain open.

He dismissed the allegations that the schools were trying to keep out black pupils, saying that, of the approximately 1,000 pupils at the coed institution 70 percent of the junior pupils are black, while 80 percent of the high school students are black.

Most of Zimbabwe's elite, including government ministers, prefer to send their children to private schools.