Human rights lawyers have petitioned authorities at a Zimbabwean school seeking to stop them from disenfranchising pupils by not allowing them to register for their Grade Seven examinations owing to non-payment of registration fees guaranteed by government.
Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights on Tuesday 26 July 2022 gave a twenty-four hour ultimatum to the Headmaster of Mahombekombe Primary School only identified as Beretino to stop disenfranchising some pupils by arbitrarily withholding their Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) benefits by not allowing them to register for the November 2022 Grade Seven examinations scheduled for the end of the year.
Without giving any reasons, Beretino reportedly told parents and guardians that their children’s examination registration fees will not be paid through the government-backed BEAM programme.
Parents and guardians are expected to make payments at examination registration centres by Friday 29 July 2022.
In response to Beretino’s conduct, Chinopfukutwa on Tuesday 26 July 2022 served him with a letter demanding that he within twenty-four hours forward the list of names of all Grade Seven students, who are enrolled on the BEAM programme to Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC), for payment of their 2022 examination fees. Chinopfukutwa protested that the summary and arbitrary decision to withhold BEAM benefits to the pupils is unlawful, constitutes a breach of the learners’ right to “basic State-funded education”.
In addition, Beretino’s conduct, Chinopfukutwa said, amounts to treating the learners in an unfair and discriminatory manner based on the economic and social status of their disadvantaged parents and guardians.
This, the human rights lawyer said, is a breach of the affected learners’ right to equality and non-discrimination as set out in section 56 of the Constitution.
Chinopfukutwa also warned that Beretino’s conduct amounts to a breach of the affected learners’ right to administrative justice guaranteed in section 68 of the Constitution, which entitles them to be furnished with reasons in writing for the adverse administrative conduct which the school head has adopted against the learners.
Chinopfukutwa said Beretino’s failure to comply with the students’ parents and guardians’ demands will leave him with no choice but to institute legal action against the school head seeking an order to compel him to register the students so as to write their Grade Seven examinations.