By Paidashe Mandivengerei
Global human rights watcher, Amnesty International has called on the Zimbabwean government to allow children without identification documents to sit for public examinations.
Some descendants of Gukurahundi victims and in other instances migrant workers across the country have been barred from accessing education because of administrative bottlenecks that have rendered them stateless.
According to the latest Amnesty International Report titled ‘We are like ‘Stray Animals’; Thousands Living On The Margins Due To Statelessness in Zimbabwe’, a lot of Zimbabwean children face myriad challenges due to their failure to access birth certificates and national IDs.
A survey by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) revealed that approximately 300 000 people have failed to acquire identity documents in Zimbabwe.
This number included migrants from neighbouring countries, Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi brought during the colonial era to provide labour in mines and farms.
The same problem is prevalent in the Matebeleland and Midlands provinces where victims of the Gukurahundi massacres lost their identity documents during the atrocities and their descendants thereafter could not acquire the same.
“Without the necessary identity documents, many stateless children are unable to access primary, secondary and tertiary education, contrary to Zimbabwe’s obligations to provide access to education to all children without discrimination.
“Children who do not have birth certificates continue to face major challenges. Thousands are prevented from entering the education system or are forced to drop out, this is particularly pronounced in Matebeleland where the drop-out rate is higher than in any other province,” reads part of the report.
‘Stateless’ citizens cannot sit for public examinations which list identity documents as a prerequisite for registering and this has limited their job prospects.
According to Amnesty International, with such requirements, the government is denying thousands of young people the right to education.
“The Ministry of Education requires children to produce an identity document such as a birth certificate or ID in order to be allowed to sit for (a) Grade 7 and (b) Ordinary Level examinations which qualifies students to attend vocational training or teachers’ college to enter the job market. Schools require pupils to provide both a birth certificate and an ID before they are permitted to sit secondary public examinations.
“By imposing these requirements without taking into account the problems they cause for stateless children, the authorities are denying education for thousands.”
The international rights lobby suggested that affidavits be instead used to sit for exams by those children that do not have identity documents.
“Allow children without birth certificates and IDs to sit for public examinations on the strength of affidavits from school heads, parents or legal guardian.
“Document all children without birth certificates and submit the information to provincial and district registries to facilitate universal registration of all children in primary and secondary schools.”