Herentals Group of Colleges, who have a teacher convicted of theft on their payroll and have retained him at the same school, are now in hot soup for victimising the student whose phone was stolen because “other students would make him a hero”.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum is mulling litigation against Herentals for denying the student, who is sitting for his O-Level exams this year, the right to education since the student was suspended on 27 March, yet the 27 April hearing did not take place and the student remains suspended. Lessons at Herentals started on 10 April.
A guardian of the student (name withheld) said that after the teacher was convicted, the student was suspended on allegations of “misconduct of a serious nature” and other teachers said “they were teaching him a lesson because they did not want him becoming a hero and influencing other students”.
Elijah Kawadza, a teacher at the college, was convicted of theft on 16 March this year, after stealing a Form Four Student’s cellphone at a Herentals College campus located at 28 Robert Mugabe Road, and was sentenced to two months in prison, which was commuted to community service and also on condition of restitution.
“We are concerned that Herentals Group of Colleges is denying our client the right to education, yet the teacher convicted of the crime is still teaching at the same school. We are now going to register our complaint with Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education,” said Patricia Munatsi, who is the lawyer under The Forum’s Public Interest Unit handling the case.
On Friday a disciplinary hearing for the student had been scheduled but the deputy principal at the college, Mr Samuel Chihamba, was livid on seeing Munatsi, who was representing her client, and threatened to strangle her, shouting that they did not want lawyers at the institution.
In an interview, Chihamba said that they had the right to add another two weeks suspension as they feel the student stole the phone from the teacher when it had been stowed away in the staffroom locker.
“The teacher (Kawadza) has already paid for the phone and is still teaching here. I am looking at my regulations, and we don’t allow lawyers; we only deal with students and their parents. Suspension is not a disciplinary measure, it only gives us time to investigate. If we feel we need more time to investigate, we can add another two weeks because regulations from the Ministry (of Primary and Secondary Education) allow that,” said Chihamba.
“For punishment we have corporal punishment, that is, canning the student; manual work or expulsion,” said Chihamba.
The student’s guardian says that at some point the college’s principal, Mr John Dhadhi, called them back but did not meet them as he was said to be a in a meeting.
“By not convening this disciplinary hearing, Herentals is denying our client the right to administrative justice, which leaves litigation as the only avenue because our client is sitting for his O-Level exams this year,” Munatsi said.