THE Education Amendment Bill, which has outraged the public and teachers’ unions for seeking to vest sweeping powers in the minister and curtail parents’ right to enroll children in schools of
their choice, has come under intense criticism from Zanu PF legislators and cabinet ministers.
The Bill has been referred back to the parliamentary legal committee after failing to garner consensus among cabinet ministers. It was rejected at caucus.
Sources say the Bill caused an uproar at the last politburo meeting when members were able to see the threat to education that the Bill posed.
Education, Sport and Culture minister, Aeneas Chigwedere, yesterday denied that his colleagues in parliament and the party had rejected the Bill in its present form.
“That is want you people in the media want to happen. You are telling me fiction,” Chigwedere said when asked about the prospects of the Bill being enacted in the wake of stiff resistance from his colleagues.
He denied too that the politburo had turned its back on the Bill.
“It is your imagination because nothing of that sort has happened,” he retorted. “Why don’t you ask the people you spoke to first when notice of the Bill was made? Your paper provided extensive coverage to opponents of the Bill before it was even tabled in parliament without seeking comments from me. So go ahead and publish what you want,” Chigwedere said.
But indications are that the Bill might be thrown out completely, unless it undergoes a major redrafting.
The Bill has been described in some parliamentary circles as a “disgraceful draft Bill that only a person who is an enemy of education would contemplate enacting”.
Human rights lawyers and teachers unions recently urged MPs to throw out the Bill in its present form.
The Education Amendment Bill 2005 heightened public concern that government wants more control over the education system by curtailing freedoms and privileges enjoyed by education administrators, particularly in privately registered schools.
Proposed legislation vests sweeping powers in the minister to determine whom these schools can employ. The ministry is also empowered to determine the levels of school fees that can be charged.
Some of the proposed amendments to the Education Act impinge on the right of both church-run and private schools to recruit staff of their own choice.
The Bill also empowers the minister to determine what school uniforms children should wear and what association a teacher should belong to.