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Many Zimbabwe Schools Raise Tuition Fees Despite Presidential Ban

With children in inflation-ridden Zimbabwe heading back to school this week, private and mission schools have boosted their fees by as much as 300% despite an order from President Robert Mugabe last week barring any unauthorized increases.

Parents whose children attend private schools said they have received letters telling them fees are now Z$77 million (US$335) dollars for the third term.

The state run-Herald newspaper reported that the Association of Trust Schools, which unites private schools, has agreed to review the fee in compliance with the decree - but its chairman, Jameson Timba, declined to comment on the vexed question.

Some mission schools were said to have doubled fees. But government school fees have not gone up – although sources said school officials have submitted a request to the government to raise them so they can defray some of their expenses.

A senior Education Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the government has not ascertained what schools are charging. But he said the ministry no longer regulates fees, as this is now the province of a new pricing commission.

Chairman Fidelis Mhashu of parliament's Committee on Education told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that despite the new law, the ministry must play a role in assessing the extent to which schools are obliged to raise fees.

Meanwhile, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe pulled back from an earlier announcement that its members would not show up to teach on Tuesday, the first day of the new term. The union is still demanding major wage increases for teachers, but has given the government 14 days notice of its intention to strike.

Progressive Teachers Union Matebeleland Regional Coordinator Enock Paradzai told reporter Brenda Moyo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that if the government does not address the concerns of teachers, they will definitely go out on strike.

Meanwhile, senior PTUZ officials said the union is setting up a legal assistance fund to help teachers who encounter political intimidation or violence.

PTUZ President Takavafira Zhou said teachers in rural areas in particular are likely to be targeted by ZANU-PF activists and youth militia who accuse them of sympathizing with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Zhou said the fund would cover the cost of lawyers for teachers requiring legal counsel to respond to intimidation.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...