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O-Level exam candidate sues school and minister over prayers

By Mashudu Netsianda

An Ordinary-Level pupil sitting for public examinations has taken Primary and Secondary Education Minister Lazarus Dokora and the Roman Catholic-run Embakwe High School authorities to court following his expulsion from the school for praying in an “unacceptable” Pentecostal way.

Lazarus Dokora
Primary and Secondary Education Minister Lazarus Dokora

Promise Mpala (17) was expelled from the Plumtree school by the headmaster, Mr Martin Ndlovu, after he was found praying with 17 other pupils on the school grounds in a manner deemed unacceptable and contrary to the Catholic way of worship.

Promise’s mother, Mrs Nqobile Mpala, has through her lawyer Mr Bruce Masamvu of Dube-Tachiona and Tsvangirai Legal Practitioners filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court citing Dr Dokora, Mr Ndlovu and Embakwe High School as the respondents.

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Mrs Mpala is seeking an order directing the respondents to immediately re-admit her son into the school with full benefits of boarding and library facilities.

She also wants the court to bar the respondents from interfering with Promise’s school and examination attendance.

Mrs Mpala is accusing the school authorities of physically and psychologically victimising her son and interfering with his right to education for no justifiable reason.

Promise and his friends were summoned to Mr Ndlovu’s office on Sunday last week after they were found praying to pass exams in a Pentecostal manner instead of the Roman Catholic away. Promise, who the school authorities say had a previous warning, was then expelled while his friends were warned.

“My son was told that he was no longer welcome at Embakwe High School as the third respondent (Mr Ndlovu) had made a decision to expel him for what he referred to as unacceptable and unruly worship practices. The minor child was told that he no longer had a place at the boarding school and he was ordered to find a way of informing me so that I could come and collect him,” said Mrs Mpala in her founding affidavit.

She said when she arrived at the school last Tuesday, she discovered that her son had already been evicted from his dormitory and ordered to sleep in a storeroom alone.

“My minor child is in Form Four and he is writing his examinations at the school. However, because the third respondent (Mr Ndlovu) has refused him entry into the school, he will be prejudiced in that he has nowhere to stay while writing examinations,” said Mrs Mpala.

She argued that she stood to suffer irreversible financial prejudice after having paid boarding fees.

“I paid boarding fees in order for my son to be able to learn and write examinations in the comfort of school premises as well as use library facilities,” said Mrs Mpala.

She accused the authorities of being mischievous and acting outside the rules governing the running of the school.

“I aver that I’m unaware that the school rules define the Roman Catholic way of praying and ban any other way of praying because I was never given a copy of such rules.

“I’m however, fortified in my belief that this is an act of mischief by the headmaster and nothing to do with school rules. In fact, praying is the same for all churches including the Roman Catholic,” said Mrs Mpala.

She said Mr Ndlovu once threatened to assault her son for praying in a Pentecostal manner and accused him of influencing other pupils.

“The headmaster’s actions are illegal and contrary to the law in that as the one playing the role of a parent or guardian at the school, he has decided to abuse the minor child unnecessarily,” said Mrs Mpala. The Chronicle