Woman of Zimbabwe protest rising school fees

As education becomes out of reach for many students in the impoverished country, WOZA storms the streets again.

Page Rockwell
May 6, 2006 1:34AM (UTC)

Broadsheet heroes Women of Zimbabwe Arise are back in the news -- around 100 members were arrested in the city of Bulawayo on Thursday for protesting a sharp increase in school fees.

School starts next Tuesday in Zimbabwe, and to keep pace with the country's record 913 percent inflation rate -- and cover the cost of the government's decision last week to nearly triple the salaries of teachers, police and soldiers -- the price of attending school has more than doubled. Since the country's eight-year recession has resulted in food and fuel shortages and a jobless rate of over 70 percent, the fee hike will make sending children to school impossible for most citizens. According to Sapa-AP, "some junior day schools doubled their charges to about Z$5 million ($50) while new charges at state boarding schools ranged between Z$20 million and Z$100 million ($200 and $1,000) a term." For those citizens lucky enough to be employed, the monthly minimum wage is equivalent to about $20.


When school fees become too costly, girls education is often the first casualty, and Zimbabwe's situation has been no exception. Sapa-AP reported that "smaller increases in the past year have led to a jump in absenteeism, and some families have admitted keeping girls at home to help with household chores and sending only boys to school."

One hundred people make for a small protest, but the women of WOZA, who have been agitating tirelessly for improvements in the country, were demonstrating in defiance of the country's protest ban; as of today, they're still in police custody. Members have previously been arrested for protesting the country's harsh economic conditions, restrictive security laws and food shortages, and have also worked to distribute donated sanitary pads to women.

Seventy-three children in school uniforms were also arrested for participating in the protest, and have been released. As WOZA pointed out in a statement, "This may have been the last time the children will be able to wear uniform as they may not return to school next week."

Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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