Churches Across Zimbabwe Defiant Over Forced Recitation Of National Pledge By Children

CHURCHES said yesterday that the national pledge will not be recited at their schools when schools open for the second term tomorrow. Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku last Thursday dismissed the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights’ urgent interdict to stop the reciting of the national pledge paving way for the government to implement the national pledge policy.Chief Justice Chidyausiku in his chambers threw out the urgent application but directed the registrar of the Constitutional Court to set down the main challenge at the earliest convenient date. The government has said it is dismayed by the resistance as the national pledge is meant to instil honesty, hard work and commitment at a tender age.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has said parents should accompany their children to schools tomorrow and hand them gifts after they recite the pledge, a directive that is being resisted by churches.

Brethren in Christ Church which runs some of the top schools in Matabeleland region that include Matopo High School, Mtshabezi High School and Wanezi High school, said pupils at its schools will not recite the pledge.

In a statement the church said the pledge violates chapter 4 section 60 (2) of the Constitution that says “no person may be compelled to make an oath that is contrary to their rights or belief” as well as chapter 2 section 19 subsection (3) (b) which says the state must take appropriate measures to ensure that children are not required to perform activities that place at risk their morals or spiritual development.

“As BICC Zimbabwe conference together with like-minded organisations, we are unequivocally against the pledge and its implementation. We therefore appeal to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and government to rescind the decision. Our position as BICC Zimbabwe conference is that we will neither participate nor encourage our institutions, members and our children to participate on matters contrary to our beliefs and conscience,” the church said.

Reverend Useni Sibanda, the director of Christian Alliance which represents many churches, said those in their religious grouping will also not allow their children to recite the national pledge.

“Our children will not participate in the national pledge. We reject it on the grounds of our constitutional provisions and our religion. This uproar could’ve been avoided by the ministry through consultations with parents and the schoolchildren. We would’ve highlighted that the pledge is against our belief systems and violates our freedom of conscience as Christians,” he said.

“We know countries like India, South Africa, the United States of America and many other countries have similar pledges but here in Zimbabwe there was no consultation before the pledge was imposed on our children. The fact that parents have been asked to present their children with presents means that it’s no longer a pledge but a ritual, which is against our Christian values. “

The Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta), the largest teachers’ union, has also rejected the pledge which it says is unconstitutional and violates the rights of pupils and teachers.

The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education Sylvia Utete-Masango said the recital will go on as planned tomorrow and urged parents to support their children.

“The words in the pledge talk about hard work, commitment and dignity, I don’t know if there are parents who don’t want honest and hardworking children. The words are derived from the constitution and means those who are saying it’s wrong don’t support the constitution,” said Utete-Masango.

She said the national pledge was not a once off thing, and would be recited every day during assembly time after the singing of the national anthem. “So I don’t know whether parents who are withdrawing their children from school are withdrawing them forever,” she said.

Utete-Masango said parents were consulted on the pledge during the curriculum review process. The ZLHR is representing a Harare man who is contesting the constitutionality of forcing his children to recite the national pledge. The father of three school going children says reciting the pledge is against his religious beliefs and is unconstitutional. 
Pamela Shumba/Auxilia Katongomara -source Chronicle

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