By Cletus Mushanawani
MUTARE – Student unrest rocked Hartzell High School since Sunday evening with the militant pupils demanding the removal of their headmaster, Mr Shorwi Kawadza, from the school, accusing him of being insensitive to their welfare and education.
So tense was the situation that it had to take the intervention of the police in full riot gear to stop the pupils from marching to Mutare on Monday morning.
The police, who were first called in on Sunday night when the demonstration started, had to fire teargas canisters to disperse the rampaging students who had vandalised the girls’ hostels fence.
When The Manica Post visited the school on Monday, heavily armed police officers had just intercepted the students at Mutare River and were marching them back to the school.
The police were back at the school on Tuesday night as some students had ganged up to attack one of the teachers’ houses.
It only took the intervention of acting Manicaland Education Provincial Director, Mr Andrew Chigumira, to restore normalcy at the school as the responsible authorities and different delegations from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education had failed to offer a solution to the unrest.
The school authorities had resolved to hire four buses to ferry form threes and fours back home, but Mr Chigumira on Tuesday shot down the suggestion, saying it was against the children’s right to education.
The students’ petition, which this paper has in its possession, had 15 issues which they want addressed.
Among the issues raised was the decision by the school to spend $3 800 on prefects orientation at a local hotel, yet no maintenance like cutting of long grass was done prior to the opening of the school.
Mr Kawadza was also being accused of renovating his office and personal toilet, while the infrastructure at the school was suffering from neglect.
The students complained that the ablution facilities in their halls of residence leave a lot to be desired and to confirm their allegations a penchant smell emanating from the toilet at the beit-hall engulfed the whole area as students were being addressed by United Methodist Church’s education secretary, Reverend Timire on Monday.
The students also complained that their Science studying counterparts were paying an extra $40 for laboratory chemicals, but they accessed the laboratory less than three times last year.
Mr Kawadza was also being accused of enrolling less than 25 ex-Hartzell students for Lower Six. He was also accused of using vulgar language while addressing students, as well as being rude to students’ parents.
The students said the decision by the school authorities to enroll just 45 A-Level students was having a telling effect on sporting activities as the school is no longer a force to reckon with in extra-curriculum activities.
In an interview on Wednesday, Mr Chigumira, confirmed the unrest and said his investigators were on the ground and was expecting a report from them today (Friday).
“The student said they no longer wanted the services of the headmaster. I first dispatched my team on Monday to solve the problem, but their efforts failed to find a solution. I sent another team on Tuesday, but it was a deadlock until I had to drive there.
“We were frank in our discussions and we resolved that students should continue with their lessons while investigations into the allegations being leveled against the authorities continue.
“We could not allow the school to send children back home as a solution to the impasse because their lessons should not be interrupted. It is true that the school authorities had hired four buses to take the children back home, but this should be the last thing to do,” said Mr Chigumira.
While addressing the students on Monday, Rev Timire, tried in vain to have dialogue with them, as they at times hackled him. At times they disrupted his addresses by singing songs denouncing the headmaster.
“As the responsible authorities we promise to look into the issues you have raised. We urge you to go back to your classes while we look into your grievances,” said Rev Timire.
However, some authorities at the school are accusing some teachers of inciting students to revolt against the headmaster over the issue of incentives as well as personality clashes. Manica Post