EDUCATION minister Aeneas Chigwedere has been barred by the High Court from interfering with or closing schools that charge school fees higher than those set by government. <
Prior to the opening of schools, Chigwedere pegged fees for all private schools at $8,5 million, prompting the Association of Trust Schools (ATS), an umbrella body for private schools, to seek a court injunction against him. An interim order granted by Justice Rita Makarau to ATS on January 4 bars Chigwedere, Education secretary Lysias Bowora and police commissioner Augustine Chihuri, from closing down schools charging fees higher than stipulated amounts.
“Respondents, their servants and agents are hereby restrained from closing down or ordering or threatening the closure of schools run by any applicant or member of the ATS by reason of any perceived or alleged contravention of Section 21 of the Education Act,” reads the order.
ATS chairman Jameson Timba said equipped with the order, all the 60 ATS schools may demand from each parent the standard amount set by the minister plus an equivalent amount as an advance payment while the official process is being followed.
“It was recognised by all parties that all ATS schools be able to meet their costs while their individual fee applications for approval of the sums fixed in consultation with parents are being processed in accordance with the Education Act,” Timba said.
Timba said ATS schools were demanding between $7,4 million and $17,1 million.
“There are no schools in our membership which set full boarding including tuition at between $21 million and $28 million per term as reported by some media with respect to Falcon, Whitestone, Peterhouse, etc,” he said.
“Full boarding with tuition charges dependent on location, size, course option and facilities range between $7,4 and $17,1 million.”
Timba said before applying to hike fees every school agreed with parents involved on a fee structure that would guarantee the pupils’ education.
“Records and forecasts for the costs of operating and maintaining each school were meticulously scrutinised in consultation with parents’ representatives before the fees needed to ensure those costs would be evenly shared and met,” he said.
Last year more than a dozen schools were closed and headmasters arrested for charging “exorbitant fees”.