The Forced Closure of Private Schools
The forced delay in the opening of all private schools with the threat that
any school that defied the order would face the imprisonment of their Heads
is an incomprehensible action that defies all logic.
In 2008, children attending State controlled and managed schools were
virtually denied any formal education because of the collapse of the system
due to shortages of teaching staff and teaching materials. What learning was
achieved was due to the Herculean efforts of parents who dug deep to feed
children in school hostels and to augment teacher salaries. Mission schools
The only sectors that worked consistently and were able to maintain a high
standard of education were the small number of private schools where parents
fund their childrens education completely. Despite constant harassment by
the Minister of Education, these schools have been able to pay reasonable
salaries to staff and maintain their standards.
Now, with one days notice, the Acting Minister of Education has forced all
these schools to remain closed simply because he has been unable to ensure
that State schools will be able to open.
The facts are that Zimbabwe has 2,8 million children in its State
administered education system. At an average class size of 30, this would
require the services of 105 000 teachers. In fact it is understood that
barely 20 per cent of this number remained at these schools at the end of
December 2008 and over the holidays, many thousands of teachers have left
the country to try to secure work in South Africa and Botswana.
On top of this, virtually no materials for schooling are available, even if
the State had the resources with which to pay for these items. The stark
reality is that State schools are unlikely to open at the end of January
although the Ministry will attempt to do so. If a Transitional Government is
formed in February, the new Minister will need at least two months to
prepare to open the State schools and to mobilize the resources to make this
Under these circumstances it is an act of folly to stop the private schools,
where parents have already paid their fees, teachers are ready to start
teaching and in some cases children had already started to arrive at schools
for the new term. This action will cost the private schools many millions of
dollars and the children vital weeks of learning.
The private schools teach the children of the very people in Zimbabwe who
are keeping the whole country going. Skilled and experienced managers and
specialists from all walks of life, without which the country could not
sustain even the present level of economic and social activity. They are a
vital segment of a collapsing society and every effort should be made to
support their efforts to stay open and in business.
Bulawayo, 13th January 2009