Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Group slates ‘Gukurahundi’ style schools closure plan

By Dumisani Nyoni

The Matebeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) has castigated the decision by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to close down 40 Matabeleland South schools citing low enrolment figures.

Members of the Fifth Brigade in Zimbabwe. The army unit is said to have massacred tens of thousands of people in 1983. Photograph: Zimbabwean National Archives/PA

In a stinging statement on Tuesday, MIHR general secretary Benedict Sibasa said that was unacceptable as it “smacks of tribal hatred, is atrociously consistent with Gukurahundi genocide programmes and violates all fundamentals of human and children’s rights”.

He said the decision was based on a flawed, outdated and ill-conceived policy of one teacher to 40 students which is a “one size fits all” policy that does not consider differences in settlement patterns and population sizes of various communities of Zimbabwe and Matebeleland.

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Sibasa also said the decision was in direct violation of fundamental Constitutional provisions such as Section 19 (1) read together with Section 81(2) which stipulates that “The State must adopt policies and measures to ensure that in matters relating to children, the best interests of the children concerned are paramountand further stipulates that “A child’s best interests are paramount in every matter concerning the child”

“In this policy directive, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education did not consider the best interests of the children but its own administrative interests – which is wrong,” he said.

The decision further violates the rights of the children as espoused in Section 81 of the Constitution which says that “Every child, that is to say every boy and girl under the age of eighteen years, has the right to education…”

“By closing these schools, the rights to education for the few children currently enrolled shall be adversely affected. Education is fundamental human rights and its fulfilment should not be premised on or determined by numbers but by the availability of students who need the right,” Sibasa said.

This decision is also contrary to the national development fundamentals as stipulated in Section 13 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, he said.

“Therefore outside the parameters of free, prior and informed community consent, the decision to close these schools if fundamentally wrong.

“Since the year 2013 Matabeleland South schools have been performing very dismally academically and the province have been leading nationally on school dropout rates and chief among the reasons for this has been attributed (by the Provincial Education Authorities) to the very long distances travelled by students to schools. Instead of reducing the distances, the Ministry chooses to abuse the children of Matebeleland South by closing their schools,” he said.

He urged the ministry to forthwith stop perpetuating pro-Gukurahundi genocide policy directives in Matebeleland as such Gukurahundi decisions shall be met with the greatest forms of rejection from the people of Matebeleland.

“We further encourage the people of Matebeleland (Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North and Bulawayo) to mass mobilise and resist such a directive with all the means necessary within their capacity and within the confines of justice and human rights promotion and protection,” he said.

“We also call on all members of Parliament from the region, Councillors, Chiefs, Civic Society organisations, church leaders and well meaning institutions to join the active citizen actions to resist this unjust and human rights violating decision that is premised on the archaic and undemocratic majoritarian fundamentals without considering the rights and interests of minority communities.”

He also urged the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to protect the children of Matebeleland South from such “atrocious decisions” that smack of tribalism and tribal hatred from the Minister and his Permanent Secretary.

“We also believe it is time the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, his Deputy and the Permanent Secretary did the just and noble thing and resigned or simple stop visiting our region because they have stopped serving the national interests,” he said. Radio VOP