By Professor Matodzi
Harare, February 17, 2016 – An ordinary level student has demanded the release of her 2015 O’ level results short of which her former school has refused to release if she failed to settle outstanding fees owed to the Harare school.
Through the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Paidamoyo Mutakiwa this week wrote to the Queen Elizabeth School head demanding the unconditional release of her examination result, short of which she was going to proceed with plans to sue the school for violating her fundamental rights.
However, since a minor cannot initiate legal proceedings on her own, Paidamoyo is represented in the matter by her father Thomas Mutakiwa.
It is alleged the minor visited her school last Thursday intending to collect her results but was denied access to her result slip for having failed to settle what she owed the school.
This prompted current demands by her rights group for the release of the results whose continued keeping they said was in violation of Sections 75 and 81 of the Constitution.
“We are hereby writing challenging the withholding of our client’s results as a way of forcing her parents to pay the outstanding fees,” wrote Kenias Shonhai who is with the forum’s Public Interest Unit.
“The authorities’ conduct of using children as pawns to force payment is unlawful and unconstitutional and an abuse of authority on the part of the institution.
“There is no basis for the authorities to withhold our client’s results because no valid legal steps or proceedings can be taken against a minor who has no contract with an institution to pay fees.”
By denying the minor of her results, the rights group also argue, the school was acting in defiance of directives by the country’s Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education for schools not to “expel, suspend or withhold pupils or students’ school results on the basis of non-payment of fees”.
They insist schools must sue guardians who would have secured places for their children in the educational institutions as opposed to disadvantaging the minor.
“… The conduct by the school violates our client’s rights espoused in sections 75 and 81 of the Constitution,” read the letter of demand.
“By withholding the results, the children’s right to education is hindered since she cannot further her education without her O’ level results.
“In withholding the child’s results, the school authorities failed to take into cognisance the best interests of the child which should be paramount in any decision which affects the child.
“We are therefore instructed to demand as we hereby do the release of Paidamoyo Mutakiwa’s results with immediate effect and in any case within 48 hours from the date of receipt of this letter failure of which we are instructed to take legal actions without any further notice to yourselves and you shall bear legal costs.”
The human rights lawyers further demanded a stop in similar acts by local schools insisting this was an offence under the Children’s Act.
They urged parents whose children are subjected to “this type of punishment” to report such practice to the police.
The matter comes after the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights also successfully lawyers challenged school authorities in Bulawayo’s Townsend High School against withholding two pupils’ examination certificates to try and force the payment of outstanding fees.