Two days ago when I read the article of a child denied to write exams because of no shoes, I was bothered and took the issue casually. When today I woke up and read a follow up news item by Takunda Maodza in the Herald that the same student Belvin Chibi denied the right to sit for his 3rd exam paper because again he came with shoes but not school shoes, I was furious. It was unbelievable.
Its sad that the Belvin Chibi, a form four student at Mweyamutsevene High School had made an effort to come in some borrowed shoes for this third exam, and he was chased away because they were not the right school shoes! He had earlier come with no shoes and had been denied the right to sit for his exams. Clearly, the teacher Mrs Nyasha Rubende acted against the rules, and her husband the headmaster, Mr Abel Zebron Rubende appears complicit in this decision.
This story made many people angry, with extensive social media commentary and calls for action. As a person who grew up in a very resource poor family, shoes was a luxury as we had to sell and assist our parents raise the school fees. Many Zimbabweans may never have taken their primary or secondary school exams if shoes were a requirement. This is a huge infringement on the basic dignity of the poor. The decision by Mrs Nyasha Rubende scratched my soul. Its abuse of office and authority, and it is heartless decision. I have perused the Education Act of Zimbabwe and did not find the words shoes mentioned anywhere!
I urge and appeal to the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference as well as the Zimbabwe Minister of Education to prioritise investigations and take the necessary measures in this case. The following are key facts that makes this issue pertinent and urgent:
- The right to education for every Zimbabwe child is protected by the constitution and subsidiary laws of the country. This should not be violated and robbed of any child by anyone and especially by teachers whose are paid to ensure that our children can access and enjoy this right.
- Recognising the dire economic situation of the country and prevalence of poverty and inability of parents to even afford the basic fees, it is unreasonable that school uniforms and shoes should be a pre-condition for any child to sit for an exam. This amount to penalising the child and the parent because of their poverty. This is degrading treatment to the child and his guardians.
- The loss to the child, Belvin is huge, considering that he has to resit the same subjects a year later. This is emotionally costing to him and his parent, it has material and financial costs as he needs another year to study, keep his motivation and also pay for necessary tuition and exam fees.
- The behaviour by the teacher and headmaster strains the relationships between administration and students as well as parents, thus undermining the much need supportive and enabling environment for learning.
- The teacher and headmaster infringed the laws and basic ethical tenets and fundamental values in education. They bring disrepute to the church and to the Zimbabwe education system as a whole. They act with impunity and therefore its important to ensure justice.
Indeed, the facts at hand may simply be the tip of the iceberg with regards to the goings on at this institution of learning Mweyamutsvene High School. It could also be a reflection of the many infringements in the education sector. These are some of the factors that results in school drop outs and limited transition of our children from secondary to tertiary education. It is crucial that the media continues and sustains its investigative journalism on such individual cases as this is one sure way of rooting out the rot in our society.