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  • Copac ignored student views
    Zimbabwe National Students Union
    February 01, 2013

    The Zimbabwe National Students Union is not at all pleased with the contents of the final draft constitution and has a bone to pick with Copac over the way provisions for the right to education and academic freedom are captured.

    Zinasu is aggrieved by the fact that Copac, acting in a manner that has given politicians and politics a bad name world over, invited students, which were represented by the Zinasu Gender Secretary Coezzet Chirinda and National Spokesperson Zechariah Mushawatu, to give views at the Second All Stakeholders Conference only to archive them at their offices and not include them in the draft.

    Zinasu is further angered by the fact that whilst ignoring important views from civic society, politicians took all the time they wanted in the world to bicker over issues on which they disagreed in the draft constitution whilst the general population watched idle and helpless from the sidelines almost as if the supreme law was for politicians instead of the generality of Zimbabwe.

    Most of all, as stated elsewhere, the Union is disappointed not only by the political processes that resulted in the production of the final draft but also by the way these political processes, which were already inherently flawed, were carried out.

    During the Second All Stakeholders Conference, Zinasu gave imperative and crucial views to be considered for the final draft in terms of education and academic freedom but absolutely non of them are part of the Copac final draft.

    Let me state for the record that I'm not naive enough to think that the purpose of the Second All Stakeholders Conference was to take into account all new views and totally change the contents and structure of the Copac draft, but whilst I fully understand this, I strongly feel that the contributions made by Zinasu were of such significance and magnitude that only retrogressive forces would fail to include them in a document touted to be progressive.

    The views raised by Zinasu, especially with particular reference to the right to education are of such paramount importance that their exclusion from the draft is going to lead to the continuance of the underfunding and lack of prioritization of the education sector that has been the hallmark of governance in Zimbabwe since the late 1990s.

    In terms of academic freedom, which in the draft falls under freedom of expression, Zinasu submitted to Copac that the latter should be elaborated on in the constitution by stating particular freedoms to be enjoyed under the umbrella term academic freedom.

    For instance, in the provision for freedom of the media which also falls under freedom of expression, the draft states that 'every person is entitled to freedom of the media, which freedom includes protection of the confidentiality of journalists' sources of information' Chapter 4 section 81 (2).

    In terms of academic freedom however, the draft simply states that every person should enjoy academic freedom without stating important aspects that fall under this freedom.

    An important aspect of academic freedom that was proposed by Zinasu to be part of the draft is the view held in all important academic freedom declarations such as the Lima and Kampala declarations.

    These declarations postulate that for academic freedom to be present, no military, para-military, police or intelligence forces should singly or collectively enter the premises of institutions of higher learning except in cases were there is present or imminent danger to property or persons.

    In a country like ours were security forces, especially intelligence officers are held to be an extreme threat to academic freedom, such a provision would have gone a long way in guaranteeing the aforementioned freedom

    With reference to the right to education, the Zinasu demand at the second all stakeholders Conference was concise and clear: Copac was to remove exactly nine words (which are underlined below) from chapter 4 section 75 (4) which states that 'the state must take reasonable legislature and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realization of the right to education.'

    The failure of Copac to expunge these words from the draft constitution means that the state is left with a backdoor through which it can escape from fully guaranteeing the right to education.

    For instance, in the future, if it fails to provide funds for such a programs as the grants and loans scheme which is crucial for higher and tertiary education, the state can run to the constitution and point out to the nine words underlined above and say it is not within its available resources to provide grants and loans.

    The state can do this even though the reason it will have no money to adequately fund education will be because it will be prioritizing less important things such as foreign trips for government officials with blotted delegations and buying expensive top of the range vehicles for ministers.

    Having noted the Union's reservations about the final draft and after taking into consideration its progressive sections, Zinasu is soon to consult students on the way to proceed during the referendum.

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