Schools that withhold exam results from pupils are breaking the law, the Government said yesterday. Primary and Secondary Education Deputy Minister Professor Paul Mavhima spoke after human rights lawyers forced a Harare school to release Advanced level results to one of its former pupils who had threatened to go to court. Prof Mavhima said schools should work with parents to come up with payment plans instead of withholding results, which lawyers also say is in breach of children’s right to education.
“It’s illegal for schools to withhold results over non-payment of fees,” Prof Mavhima told The Chronicle in Bulawayo yesterday. But the deputy minister also cautioned that parents should not ride on that legal provision to avoid paying fees. Schools, he said, were empowered to take parents to the civil courts to enforce payment of fees.
“Parents have to pay something or engage school authorities to make payment plans. In as much as it is illegal for schools to deny pupils their results, schools have to function,” said Prof Mavhima. David Hofisi, of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said children should not be punished for their parents’ failure to pay school fees.
“The school has to find means of recovering the money without punishing the pupil as it is unconstitutional. What’s supposed to happen is that the child must be given results so that they continue with education while the parents sort out outstanding fees,” the lawyer said by telephone from Harare.
“They’re supposed to pursue their debt recovery from the parent while the child pursues their education.” Hofisi last month wrote to Glenview High School in Harare giving the school an ultimatum to release Advanced Level results for a pupil whose parents were in school fees arrears. Concilia Misi, who sat for the November 2016 examinations, had been denied results because her parents owed the school an unspecified amount.
Hofisi told The Chronicle yesterday that Misi’s case was one of many instances where schools had released results at the threat of litigation. “She’s not the only one, we’ve other cases where we’ve written to schools and results have been released. In Misi’s case, we served the school with papers on January 25 and when I called her parents on January 29 they confirmed that the school had released her results,” said Hofisi.
In a letter to Glenview High, Hofisi said “the sad state of affairs is not only deplorable but unlawful and unconstitutional.” In the letter also copied to Primary and Secondary Education Minister Lazarus Dokora, he added: “The Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe guarantees the right to education in section 75 and the children’s right to education in Section 81 (1) (f).
“In the present instance, our client’s right to education stands violated by your refusal to release her results to her. “This has a bearing on her future life and livelihood as you are now bent on leaving her in permanent state of limbo”.