School to pay pupil's mother Sh650,000 for discrimination

A school based in Garissa will pay a mother to a Grade Two pupil Sh 650,000 for stigmatisation and discrimination. 

This is after the HIV and Aids Tribunal ordered Najah Primary School to pay the parent codenamed JM after the administration decided to kick out her 12-year-old child over his HIV status.

Sometime in 2019, JM enrolled the child in the school and paid fees. The institution has a boarding facility and therefore she devised ways of the minor taking ARVs without other students knowing about it.

In addition, the parent had tasked the boy’s elder brother who was in the same institution to ensure that he took the medicine without fail and at the right time.

As time went by, JM opted to go give her child the medicine. It was then that the school got wind that the minor was HIV positive. The administration decided that the minor should leave.

JM testified that they even offered Sh10,000 to withdraw the pupil from the school. However, she said the institution only sent Sh 600.

The woman said that the boy dropped out due to depression.

Despite being sued, Najah and one Mohamed Noor never responded to the case.

The five-member tribunal led by Carolyne Mboku found that it was unfair and illegal for the school to kick out the minor because of his HIV status.

Mboku was of the view that there was evidence that Najah had paid the money in a bid to have JM transfer or withdraw the child.

“It is therefore our finding that for the respondents to demand the minor to be transferred out of the school upon learning of the minor’s HIV status was indeed to discriminate against the minor clearly contravening Section 32 of the Act,” the tribunal ruled.

The tribunal observed that people living with HIV who experience stigma are more likely to delay enrolment into care than people who do not perceive stigma. 

Further, it was of the view that when people living with, or at risk of, HIV are discriminated against in health-care settings, they go underground.

“This seriously undermines our ability to reach people with HIV testing, treatment and prevention services. Stigma and discrimination is an affront to human rights and puts the lives of people living with HIV and key populations in danger,” they observed.

They noted that JM had testified that the boy no longer goes to school as a result of Najah’s action.

“It is quite unfortunate that a minor of 12-year-old could be discriminated and stigmatised to the point of not going to school by the school administrators which in fact goes against the best interest of the minor. This tribunal finds that the minor suffered stigmatisation by the fact that the Respondent forced him to transfer from the school thereby separating him with his brother,” the tribunal observed.

They awarded the mother Sh400,000 for discrimination and a further Sh250,000 as compensation for the suffering caused by the school.