9 February 2016
Authorities at a Zimbabwean school have released examination certificates for two students which they had been withholding for three years after succumbing to pressure from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).
Officials at Townsend High School in Bulawayo had abused their authority by withholding Ordinary Level examination certificates for two sisters, Tanaka and Takudzwa Ngwasha, who completed their studies in 2013 and 2014 respectively, as a measure to enforce payment of some outstanding amounts in school fees or levies.
The Townsend High School authorities had been adamant that Tanaka and Takudzwa’s certificates would not be released because of issues relating to outstanding amounts in school fees or levies and had only given them result slips which they had used to pursue Advanced Level studies. The two sisters aged 19 and 17 years had now been left in a difficult position as they had not been able to enroll at tertiary education institutions of their choice without the availability of the withheld “O” Level certificates.
However, on Tuesday 09 February 2016, it was all smiles for Tanaka and Takudzwa after Mrs. M Moyo, the School Head at Townsend High School rescinded the school’s decision and released the students’ certificates.
The release of the certificates came after ZLHR lawyers Lizwe Jamela and Nosimilo Chanayiwa on Monday 08 February 2016 swiftly responded to the violation of the students’ rights by writing a letter to the school head challenging the authorities’ conduct of using children as pawns to enforce payment as unlawful and an abuse of authority on the part of the institution.
In their letter, Jamela and Chanayiwa warned authorities at Townsend High School that they were not supposed to have withheld Tanaka and Takudzwa’s certificates because no valid legal steps or proceedings can be taken against a minor who has no contract with an institution to pay fees. The human rights lawyers argued that when a parent and/or guardian secures a place for a child at a school or tertiary institution a contract is entered between the said institution and the parent with regards to payment of fees. Failure by a parent to do so, the lawyers advised, should result in the institution of legal proceedings against the parent to recover the said fees.
ZLHR is encouraged that its Mobile Legal Clinics (MLCs) which are conducted across the country’s 10 provinces are bearing fruits as attested by Tanaka and Takunda’s case which the organisation picked up and assessed as deserving intervention during one of the MLCs held recently in Bulawayo and where those in attendance were enlightened about how litigation can equip one to access and enjoy their constitutional social, economic and civil rights.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
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100 Nelson Mandela Avenue
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