Court/Judicial body: High Court of Zimbabwe
Date: 11 February 2009 CRC
Provisions: General reference (no specific Article cited).
Background: This case was brought by the parent against the private school their child attended for the school’s failure to release the child’s exam result over a dispute related to the payment of school fees. The Watershed College in Zimbabwe charges fees payable in Zimbabwe dollars which were revalued daily based on a pre-agreed unit of measure. Meetings were held with parents to set the fees and supplementary fees before the start of each term. Some parents did not pay the agreed fees on time and others did not pay at all. As a result the governing body resolved that those pupils whose fees remained unpaid will not be admitted in the new term and those that sat for exams will not have their results released until the fees were paid.
Issue and resolution: Right to education. The court dismissed the application ruling that withholding the child’s exam results did not violate the CRC.
Court reasoning: The court held that withholding the child’s exam results was “a sensible method of enforcing payment” that did not violate the CRC nor Zimbabwe’s domestic law. There was a valid contract between the parent and the college where the parent agreed to pay the applicable fees and acknowledged that the college headmaster may refuse to allow a student to return, refuse to allow any pupil to sit for an examination or release the results of any examination if fees were not paid. The framework for fees and the consequences for non-payment were also agreed by consensus between the college and other stakeholders such as parents.
Excerpt citing CRC and other relevant human rights “In view of this declaration, which I hold amounts to the terms of the contract between the parties, applicant bound herself to the decisions taken by the headmaster. In any event the decision to withhold applicant’s son’s examination results was arrived at by consensus of the other stake-holders, the parent body, which body includes the applicant. It is a sensible method of enforcing payment. To my mind it does not infringe on the International Convention on the Rights of the Child recognized under the United Nations Charter nor does it infringe on the domestic laws. Her son was allowed to sit for examinations when at that point the headmaster was end to exclude him provided, of course, that he gave the parent of the affected pupil due notice.”
CRIN comments: CRIN believes this decision is not consistent with the CRC because the court failed to consider the requirements of the best interests of the child principle and the right to education guaranteed by the Convention.
Citation: HH 17-09 / HC 417/09
Link to full judgement: http://www.zimlii.org/zw/judgment/harare-high-court/2009/17