(Public Statement 8/2017)
Issue Date: 23 May 2017
The decision by the failing Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to close 40 Matabeleland South schools on the basis of low enrolment figures (as communicated by the Permanent Secretary Dr Slyvia Utete-Masango on Monday 22 May 2017) is unacceptable as it smacks of tribal hatred, is atrociously consistent with Gukurahundi genocide programmes and violates all fundamentals of human and children’s rights. As Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights we point the following as flawed and unjust about the decision of the Ministry:
- This decision is based on a flawed, outdated and ill-conceived policy of 1 teacher to 40 students which is a ‘one size fits all’ policy that does not consider differences in settlement patterns and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 Matabeleland;
- This decision is 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 paramount” and 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;
- 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.
- This decision is also ultra-vice the national development fundamentals as stipulated in Section 13 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which says “the State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must endeavour to facilitate rapid and equitable development, and in particular must take measures to (d) bring about balanced development of the different areas of Zimbabwe, in particular a proper balance in the development of rural and urban areas”. The Section further explains that measures “must involve the people in the formulation and implementation of development plans and programmes that affect them”. 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 Matabeleland South by closing their schools.
It is due to the above issues that we at Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) therefore:
- Urges the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to forthwith stop perpetuating pro-Gukurahundi genocide policy directives in Matabeleland as such Gukurahundi decisions shall be met with the greatest forms of rejection from the people of Matabeleland.
- We further encourage the people of Matabeleland (Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North and Bulawayo) to mass mobilize 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.
- We also call on all members of Parliament from the region, Councillors, Chiefs, Civic Society organizations, 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.
- We also urge the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to protect the children of Matabeleland 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.
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights is an independent rights lobby group that exists to enhance the promotion, protection and fulfilment of fundamental human rights and freedoms in Matabeleland as espoused in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the international human rights law.
Mr. Benedict Sibasa
Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights