Elita Chikwati Senior Reporter
Government has published the Education Amendment Bill which provides for free basic education and ensures that pupils are not excluded from school on the basis of either failure to pay fees or pregnancy.
The Bill, which was published in an Extraordinary Government Gazette of February 8, stipulates that children’s rights to education should not be affected by the imposition of onerous terms and conditions such as his or her nationality, race, colour, tribe, place of birth, ethnic or social origin.
The Bill also provides for free adult education.
“Section 5 (“Compulsory education”), of the principal Act is repealed and substituted with the following — “5. Compulsory education (1) Every child shall be entitled to basic State-funded education,” reads the Bill.
“Every child of school-going age shall be entitled to be enrolled at the primary or secondary school, as the case may be, nearest to the place where he or she is ordinarily resident, unless such primary or secondary school is fully enrolled.
“Where the primary or secondary school at which a child of school going age has sought enrolment in terms of subsection (2) is unable to enrol the child because the school is fully enrolled, the head of that school shall forthwith issue to the child a certificate certifying that fact.”
The school head, the Bill states, should not issue such a certificate where it is apparent that
the enrolment of such a child at the next nearest school was impossible due to the inaccessibility of such nearest school.
The Bill also states that every school shall undertake to teach every officially recognised language, ensure that the language of instruction shall be the language of examination and ensure that the mother tongue be used as a medium of instruction at early childhood education.
“The school curricula shall reflect the culture of people of every language used or taught,” reads the Bill. “The use of any language will be subject to the availability of resources to the State for giving effect to the provisions and availability of teachers , examiners, textbooks and other educational materials necessary for instruction in any of the languages.”
According to the Bill, the responsible authority of every school should draw a disciplinary policy in accordance with standards set out in regulations prescribed by the minister.
“The regulations shall not permit any treatment which does not respect the human dignity of a pupil or amounts to physical or psychological torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” reads the Bill. “The regulations shall prescribe the manner in which any punishment may be administered.
“Disciplinary measures must be moderate, reasonable and proportionate in the light of the conduct, age, sex, health and circumstances of the pupil concerned and the best interests of the child shall be paramount.”
The Bill states that no teacher under any circumstances is allowed to beat up a child and it also provides that every school shall provide infrastructure subject to availability for resources suitable for use by pupils with disabilities.
“For the purpose of fees approval, the secretary shall require every registered school to submit a plan highlighting how the school shall advance the rights of pupils with disabilities,” reads the Bill.
The minister, the Bill states, should establish the Basic Education Fund for the purposes of funding infrastructure, payments of fees for pupils who genuinely cannot afford, and no pupil shall be excluded from school for non-payment of school fess or on the basis of pregnancy.