The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) is challenging the expulsion of a 13-year-old learner from Rugare Primary School only because she resides in the neighbouring Warren Park suburb. The lawyers want the learner to be reinstated immediately. We present the lawyers’ update on the case:
ZLHR CHALLENGES SUMMARY EXPULSION OF MINOR FROM SCHOOL
ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has asked authorities at Rugare Primary School in Harare to immediately reinstate a 13-year-old minor who was illegally expelled from school because she resides in a neighbouring suburb.
On 11 May 2022, the Headmistress at Rugare Primary School suspended a 13-year-old Grade 6 pupil on the basis that she resides in Warren Park suburb, which is an adjacent residential suburb to Rugare suburb.
The Headmistress told the minor that she was ineligible to be enrolled at Rugare Primary School because she stays in Warren Park, which is outside the zone for the school and that there are enough schools in Warren Park, where she can be accommodated.
The expulsion took place despite the fact that the minor has been a student Rugare Primary School since she enrolled for Grade 1 and that it is already mid-term after lessons commenced on 3 May 2022.
In a letter written to the Headmistress at Rugare Primary School, Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of ZLHR told the school head that the summary expulsion of the minor is unlawful and arbitrary as it had been done without having observed the audi alteram partem rule, which is a fundamental legal principle in which each party is entitled to a fair hearing and given the opportunity to respond to evidence against them and hence in breach of the principles of natural justice.
Chinopfukutwa protested that the expulsion of the minor is a breach of her right to administrative justice guaranteed in Section 68 of the Constitution and also constitutes a breach of her right to education as provided for in terms of Section 75 of the Constitution. Moreover, the human rights lawyer said, every child is entitled to school education as provided for under Section 4 of the Education Act and there is no provision in the Education Act which permits school authorities to expel learners on the basis that they stay in an area which is not in the designated zone for Rugare Primary School.
Chinopfukutwa said provisions of Section 75 of the Constitution and the Education Act obliges school authorities to take all positive steps to ensure the realisation of the right to education and not to disable it in the manner the Headmistress had done.
Chinopfukutwa further argued that the decision to summarily expel the minor from school is grossly unreasonable in its defiance of logic and common sense such that no reasonable person acting on the same facts would have arrived at the same decision.
He expressed concern that the summary expulsion of the minor had been done almost in the middle of the school term when alternative schools are fully enrolled, with uniforms and school fees having been fully paid up and the abrupt change of learning environment would also adversely affect her given that she is close to sitting for her Grade 7 examinations.
Chinopfukutwa asked the Headmistress to unconditionally reinstate and allow the minor to attend lessons at Rugare Primary School and to make the necessary arrangements to compensate her for lost learning time as a result of the school authorities’ unlawful actions.
In the event that the Headmistress fails to comply with the demand, the human rights lawyer said he will immediately approach the High Court on an urgent basis to seek an order compelling her to reinstate the minor at Rugare Primary School and the costs of such litigation will be borne by the Headmistress.