Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Court Reporter
JOHN Tallach High School has taken Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Cain Mathema to court challenging the looming deportation of its Canadian expatriate teacher following the refusal by immigration authorities to extend her temporary employment permit (TEP).
Ms Kerkhoff Maria Alida (31), a Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland missionary and volunteer A-Level Mathematics teacher at John Tallach High School had her application for the extension of temporary employment permit rejected by the Principal Director of Immigration without any reasons given.
John Tallach High School (Ingwenya Mission) through its lawyers Ncube and Partners, has filed an ex-parte urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court challenging the refusal by the immigration authorities to extend Ms Alida’s permit, citing Minister Mathema and the Principal Director of Immigration as respondents.
John Tallach High School wants the court to block the respondents from deporting Ms Alida to her country of origin pending the resolution of the issues related to the refusal to extend her TEP without furnishing her with reasons.
In his founding affidavit, the school head Mr Bonakele Ncube said the application was on an urgent basis in light of Ms AIida’s imminent deportation.
“This is an urgent application for an order directing the first respondent (principal director of immigration) to furnish us with the reasons for refusal of granting of second applicant (Ms Alida) a temporary employment permit. Further, we seek relief to the effect that the deportation of the second applicant be stayed until such a time the issue relating to her TEP is finalised,” he said.
Ms Alida successfully applied for a TEP last year in May and it was valid for 12 month.
The work permit also stated that she had an option to apply for an extension three months before the expiry date.
“She applied for an extension and the Principal Immigration Officer declined to renew the permit and a notice of deportation was subsequently issued against Ms Alida. The respondents are bound by the provisions of the Administrative Justice Act to act reasonably and in a fair and just manner in taking administrative action which may affect the rights, interests and legitimate expectations of any person,” said Mr Ncube.
The school head said the Principal Director of Immigration acted unfairly by failing to provide the reasons justifying their refusal to renew Ms Alida’s TEP.
“The second application is in the country legally and she is a holder of a valid passport. She has been volunteering as an A-Level Mathematics teacher. This is an important point considering that the Maths teacher resigned in July 2018 to join the Harare City Council. Despite numerous requests, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary has somehow failed to make a suitable replacement,” said the headmaster.
“Since July 2018, Ms Alida has been preparing the pupils for their final examinations. It would be impossible to get a suitable replacement as she has been teaching in her own unique way such that they have managed to cover most areas in the syllabus and our fear is that a sudden change may have disastrous effects on the pupils.”
Mr Ncube said Ms Alida, a holder of a Master’s degree in Mathematics, is also conducting a training programme for two assistants who are understudying her.
“All these teaching roles are not at the expense of the Government of Zimbabwe or the school as she is funded by the church in Scotland. She is also strategically positioned to source donor funds for the institution. Furthermore she is also exploring a possibility of establishing a short term exchange programme for John Tallach High School pupils and her former school in Canada,” he said.
“The second applicant has no criminal conviction and her continued presence in the country pending the resolution of her TEP issues does not in any way prejudice the country.” Mr Ncube said the school, which is situated in Ntabazinduna, Matabeleland North, was also one of the worst affected in terms of STEM teachers’ shortage in the province.
In her supporting affidavit, Ms Alida said she had developed a great relationship with the pupils such that she feels they will be deprived in the event that she is deported.
Minister Mathema and the principal director of immigration are yet to respond.