Two prestigious schools, Gateway High School and Lomagundi College, have been taken to court by parents of students who are aggrieved over the schools’ decision to withhold their “O” and “A” Level exam results due to outstanding tuition fees.
The parents of the affected students sought the assistance of Tinashe Chinopfukutwa from ZLHR Lawyers to help them secure the release of their children’s examination results.
According to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Chinopfukutwa filed an urgent application at the Chinhoyi Magistrates Court on behalf of the parents, seeking an order that would compel Lomagundi College to provide the child’s Cambridge “A” Level exam results within 24 hours of the court order being granted.
In the court application, Chinopfukutwa argued that withholding the exam results to coerce payment was unlawful and extortionate.
He further contended that the student’s educational planning was being hindered, as application deadlines for certain programs had already passed.
The longer the school authorities withheld the results, the more uncertain the student’s future would become. The court is set to hear and determine the application on Thursday 15 February 2024.
Regarding Gateway High School, Chinopfukutwa wrote a letter demanding the release of “O” Level exam results for a 16-year-old student who sat for her Cambridge exams in November 2023.
The results were being withheld due to alleged outstanding school fees. Chinopfukutwa stated that the parents had engaged with the school authorities multiple times, attempting to establish a payment plan to settle the arrears and requesting access to their daughter’s results.
However, their efforts proved futile as the school authorities evaded their requests.
Chinopfukutwa argued that the student’s inability to access her “O” Level results prevented her from applying for “A” Level studies and planning her educational future.
Additionally, “A” Level students had already enrolled in schools across the country, resulting in the students losing valuable learning time due to the withheld exam results.
The human rights lawyer protested against the school authorities’ conduct, stating that it violated the student’s right to education as enshrined in the Education Act.
He also argued that the authorities were infringing upon the child’s best interests, as outlined in the Constitution, by refusing to provide her with the exam results.
Chinopfukutwa warned Gateway High School authorities that if they failed to release the student’s exam results, legal action would be taken to compel them to do so.
The government has a policy that states schools should not prevent students from learning or withhold their results due to unpaid fees.
However, the government has been reminding parents to pay fees to ensure smooth school operations. The government is aware that many parents especially in public schools are not paying fees after the government’s directive against turning away students for non-payment.
The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Torerai Moyo, acknowledged this and emphasized the importance of parents fulfilling their role in providing everything necessary for their child’s education.
For those who cannot afford fees, the government has introduced the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) as a safety net.
But there are payment issues as the money is sometimes not paid on time. Minister Moyo also expressed concern about corruption in the selection of BEAM beneficiaries by school administrators.
He encouraged schools to organize fundraising projects to lessen the burden on parents. ZLHR