Private schools, unlike Government schools, can expel pupils for non-payment of fees and no one has a constitutional right to attend any private school, the High Court has ruled, stating that the fees agreement at such schools was a formal enforceable contract.
A pupil at St Georges College, whose parents owed fees and consequently had his exam fee payment rejected, sued the school, but the High Court threw out his application saying it could not interfere with the school’s decision after his parents breached their contractual obligations.
Elvis Makomborero Chikiwa was due to write his Advanced Level Cambridge International Examinations in November this year, but the college refused to accept his examination fees since his parents owed money for school fees.
Elvis, along with his father Mr Elvis Caleb Chikiwa, sued the private college, arguing that its conduct was in violation of their right to education and the Education Act.
The pupil’s father conceded there is outstanding school fees, but instead of fulfilling his contractual obligations, he sought the High Court’s intervention to force the college to accept his examination fees. But Justice Phildah Muzofa could not allow the application, saying the boy’s parents breached the contract between the parties.
“What the second applicant (the boy’s father) wants is for this court to turn a blind eye to his conduct and come to his aid,” she said. “It is trite that a court cannot assist one who breached his contractual obligations.”
She noted that by signing a contract with the college, Mr Chikiwa , through his wife, also gave St Georges College headmaster the power to use his discretion to expel their child where sufficient cause existed.
By declining to accept the examination fees, Justice Muzofa said, the college had technically expelled the boy.
“If the second applicant desired so much to remain part of the respondent’s school, he should have complied with the terms of agreement between parties,” she said. It was also the court’s finding that Chikiwa junior had no vested right to education in a private school in terms of the Constitution.
Justice Muzofa said what existed between the parties was a private contractual relationship. The contract between the boy’s parents and the college set out the conditions regulating the parties’ conduct. Mr Knowledge Maeresera of Chizengeya, Maeresera and Chikumba represented the Chikiwas while Mr Hebert Mutasa of Gill, Godlonton and Gerrans acted for St Georges College.