The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) acknowledges the efforts of the Government in safeguarding the great strides made in education since independence in 1980 in terms of access and school completion rates among children, particularly at primary level, despite the current economic challenges. The Commission also notes that the challenges posed by the current economic environment obtaining in the country have impacted negatively on the ability of parents and guardians to meet the costs of educating their children, especially those from low income families and communities.
In view of the aforesaid, the ZHRC wishes to express its concern over recent media reports regarding proposals to introduce examination fees for Grade Seven (7) examination candidates. The Commission takes this opportunity to remind the Government and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MOPSE) that the proposed fee introduction, if true, contravenes provisions of international human rights instruments that Zimbabwe is party to. For example, Article 13 (2a) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and Article 28 (1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) call on State Parties to make primary education compulsory and available to all, while secondary education in all its different forms should be made generally available and accessible.
Furthermore, the Commission observes that the proposed fees are an infringement of one of the basic fundamental human rights enshrined in Chapter 4 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provided for in Section 75 (1) (a) which states that “every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has a right to a basic State-funded education, including adult basic education”. Section 27 (1) (a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe further obliges the State to “take all practical measures to promote free and compulsory basic education for children”.
The Commission therefore reiterates that it is the Constitutional responsibility of Government to ensure that every child has access to free basic education. Article 6 of the Education Act obligates the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education the responsibility to oversee the objective of maintaining minimum fees for education by appropriate means, including provision of grants and other subsidies to schools. In this regard, the Commission urges the government to prioritise the education sector when allocating resources to ensure adequate resources are availed to the Ministry, including funding for the administration of examinations and related purposes. The Commission therefore calls on the Government through MOPSE to re-consider the proposed policy position on Grade Seven examination fees to ensure the country continues to register high access and completion rates at primary level including maintaining the prevailing high literacy rate.
The ZHRC notes with equal concern the apparent lack of broad consultation with key stakeholders which should characterise the Ministry’s approach to issues of public interest in the education sector. The Commission therefore implores the Ministry to be cautious and consult widely before policy related statements are made to the media and the public to avoid unnecessary controversies concerning the fundamental rights to education.
For more information please contact:
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission
3 Elcombe Road
Tel: +263 4 700705/ 700710