Zimbabwe’s Education Crisis: Private Schools Face Closure

Government threatens to shut down unregistered schools as parents seek alternatives to public education

by Victor Adetimilehin

Zimbabwe is facing an education crisis as thousands of students enrolled in private schools may not be able to attend classes next year. The government has warned that it will close down any school that operates without a license, in accordance with the Education Act.


The Act requires all independent schools to register with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and to have their fees and levies approved by the ministry. 


According to a report by Newsday Zimbabwe, many private schools have failed to comply with these regulations, citing bureaucratic hurdles and economic challenges.


The demand for private education has increased in recent years as public schools suffer from shortages of teachers, textbooks, and infrastructure. Many parents have opted to send their children to private schools, some of which operate from backyards or rented premises, hoping to secure a better future for them.


But the government says these schools are compromising the quality of education and exploiting parents. It has vowed to crack down on them and ensure that they meet the minimum standards.


The Impact of The Crackdown


The closure of unregistered schools could affect more than 22,000 students in the capital Harare alone, according to a 2022 survey by the Harare City Council. The survey found that 320 out of 448 schools and colleges in the city were operating illegally.


Some of the affected students may not be able to find places in public schools, which are already overcrowded and under-resourced. Others may not be able to afford the fees charged by registered private schools, which are often higher than those of unregistered ones.


The situation could worsen the already low literacy and numeracy rates in the country, which have declined from 92% in 2014 to 86% in 2022, according to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency.


Some private school owners and teachers have appealed to the government to reconsider its stance and to engage them in dialogue. They say they are providing a valuable service to the nation and contributing to the development of human capital.


They also argue that they are facing challenges such as inflation, currency instability, and COVID-19 restrictions, which have made it difficult for them to operate legally and sustainably.


The Way Forward


The government has said it is willing to work with private schools to regularize their operations and to improve the quality of education in the country. It has urged them to apply for registration and to submit their fees and levies for approval.


The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has also established a National Education Advisory Board and provincial education advisory boards to advise the minister on various issues affecting the education sector, including the regulation of private schools.


The ministry has also announced plans to roll out a program in 2024 to engage independent colleges and to help them comply with the law.


The government and the private schools have a common goal: to provide quality education to the children of Zimbabwe. By working together, they can overcome the challenges and ensure that every child has access to learning opportunities.


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