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Student walk-out in protest of Dr Kunonga: The Church of England Newspaper, December 9, 2011 7. December 9, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Education, Zimbabwe.
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St David's Girls High School in Bonda, Zimbabwe

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Several hundred students from St David’s Girls High School in Bonda, in the Diocese of Manicaland, went on strike last week in protest to the mismanagement of their school by the breakaway bishop of Harare, Dr Nolbert Kunonga.

However, Dr Kunonga has defended his stewardship of church schools, saying they remain the best performing academic institutions in Zimbabwe.

St David’s Girls High School was founded in 1961 by the sisters of the Order of the Holy Paraclete – an Anglican order with a mother house at St Hilda’s Priory, Sneaton Castle, Whitby. In 1977 the school was turned over to the diocese and is the largest church-affiliated school in north-eastern Zimbabwe. However, the management of the school has been taken over by the former Bishop of Manicaland, Elson Jakazi – an ally of Dr Kunonga.

Bishop Jakazi and his supporters are alleged to have diverted funds and used the school’s assets for their own use, critics in Zimbabwe tell The Church of England Newspaper. Bishop Jakazi did not respond to a request for comments.

NewsDay reported that a large portion of the school’s 950 students walked out on 21 November 2011 in protest to the school’s overcrowded dormitories and “plummeting [academic] standards.” They had planned to walk 40 kilometres to the home of a former headmaster to “air their grievances that included alleged poor quality of food, sexual harassment and interference by Kunonga’s faction in the school’s affairs.”

They got as far as the Nyamadzi River before buses sent by the school fetched the girls home.

On 9 November 2011 Dr Kunonga released a statement defending his management of church schools. Anglican Mission schools “have always been among the best performing schools in Zimbabwe,” he said.

The breakaway bishop rejected claims that standards had fallen, noting that Anglican schools have “always maintained high pass rates” and that institutions like St David’s in Bonda “are always envied by parents for their academic excellence. We challenge the [Church of the Province of Central Africa] or any other interested parties, to desist from making wild claims for the purposes of tarnishing other people’s images.”

He dismissed claims that he had appointed unqualified teachers and administrators, noting they were under the oversight of the Ministry of Education. “In the event that teachers violate Mission statutes, they cannot in any way be dismissed by the Church, as the Church is not their employer. They are referred back to the Ministry of Education. There is, therefore, nothing sinister about the Church referring back to the Ministry teachers who refuse to work together with the responsible authority for the development of the school.”

Dr Kunonga added that he does “not appoint teachers or headmasters” but only makes recommendations to the Ministry of Education. The claim that he had appointed his “stooges to be teachers and or headmasters only make sense to those who are not familiar with policies of the Ministry of Education in Zimbabwe.”