AHEAD of commencement of the first school term in January 2023, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) urges administrators at public schools to desist from turning away children due to failure to pay tuition fees.
ZLHR has over the years and months noted a pervasive and worrying practice, where school authorities both in rural and urban areas have increasingly turned away children from attending lessons owing to non-payment of school fees and leading to a substantial increase in numbers of children dropping out of school.
In most instances, the majority of children who fall victim to this practice are those from disadvantaged families and yet the acquisition of education is the only pathway out of poverty.
It is disconcerting that the turning away of children from schools continues to take place, nine years after the adoption of a Constitution, which in section 75(1) guarantees every citizen and permanent resident the right to a basic State-funded education.
ZLHR reminds some overzealous school authorities that excluding children from school for non-payment of school fees is unconstitutional.
This ongoing practice undermines policy pronouncements issued by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, which on several occasions has categorically denounced exclusion of children from school for non-payment of school fees.
Chasing away children from school on the pretext that they have not paid tuition fees undermines the principle of “the best interests of the child”, guaranteed in section 19 and section 81 of the Constitution and in several regional and international human rights instruments of which Zimbabwe is a State party.
With less than a fortnight before commencement of the first term for the new academic calendar, ZLHR implores all school authorities to respect the laws of the country and guarantee that no child is turned away from school for the sole reason of non-payment of school fees.
ZLHR reiterates that the Constitution emphasises the sanctity of the right to education and this has in recent years been confirmed by government officials including President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima, hence we implore them to fulfil this pledge and stop making hollow promises to parents, guardians and school children.
Upon opening of schools on 9 January 2023, ZLHR expects all public schools to comply with Zimbabwean laws and the provisions of the Constitution and afford all children an opportunity to attend lessons and desist from turning them away from attending lessons.
Since access to basic education is a crucial element in the development of a human being, as education enables enjoyment and fulfilment of other critical rights, ZLHR urges government to:
- Issue, implement and enforce a directive to all publicly-run schools to allow children to attend school whether or not tuition fees due have been paid;
- Respect commitment to the realisation of the right to basic state-funded education as guaranteed in section 75 of the Constitution by adequately funding the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), and similar social assistance and protection programmes;
- Ensure that teachers are adequately remunerated to industriously conduct their crucial duties;
- Fulfil its promise of providing education for all children attending public schools in Zimbabwe and to pay school fees for children of all educators as pledged in early 2022.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
No. 103 Sam Nujoma Street, Harare, Zimbabwe
Phone: (+263 8677005347, +263 242 764085/705370/708118
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