Adventists challenge UZ’s Saturday exams

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By Mary Taruvinga

UNIVERSITY of Zimbabwe Seventh Day Adventist Students Association has approached the High Court challenging the holding of examinations on Saturday 11 and 18 July.

The association said if they sit for exams on a Saturday, it will be in contradiction with their religious beliefs, as they will be writing on their Sabbath.

They filed the challenge through their representatives Maranatha Chigogora and Natasha Nyathi.

Cited as respondents are the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), the registrar of University of Zimbabwe, Higher and Tertiary education minister Amon Murwira.

They are seeking to have the decision set aside.

“The applicants being members of the Seventh-Day Adventist church cannot avail themselves for the said examinations on the above mentioned dates as this conflicts with their professed faith in particular their belief that the biblical seventh day Sabbath starts from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday,” reads the application.

“Applicants have fundamental constitutional rights to freedom of conscience, right to education and right not to be unfairly discriminated against.

“The right to freedom of conscience allows them to practice, propagate and give expression to their religious beliefs.

“Given that the applicants cannot take up the exams on Saturdays, they will definitely suffer prejudice if the examinations are to proceed in their absence.”

The association wants the examinations to be written on alternative dates and time and previously proposed that UZ puts them into quarantine to allay any fears of cheating and releases them for exams at 6pm on the respective dates.

According to court papers, UZ opened its learning facilities to final year students on June 29 following its closure in March due to Covid-19 pandemic.

On July 1, the university released an examination timetable through the e-learning portal and some of the exams are going to be held on June 11 and 18 which will be Saturdays.

The students said they had attempted to engage university authorities concerning rescheduling of the examinations but to no avail.

The court heard that despite efforts to negotiate for the students to sit for the exams from 6pm on the Saturdays, UZ authorities did not take heed of the letter of proposal on July 8 for the alternative plan.

The case is pending.