A High Court in Malawi has ruled that a woman whose husband had divorced his wife of twenty years after obtaining his university degree must compensate her for her contribution towards his education.
Ellen Tewesa dragged Chimwemwe Twesa before the Malawian High Court for it to determine whether or not his Bachelor’s degree and diploma could be considered part of matrimonial property and be shared between them upon divorce.
Reports say before taking the matter to the High Court, Ellen Tewesa a lower court had awarded a compensation of R6 654 payable in 10 equal installments to her against her ex-husband. The court had further ordered Chimwemwe to build her a house or pay a sum of R3 327 to her in default.
During the 20 years as a couple, Chimwemwe obtained his two degrees and moved from being a primary school teacher to a lecturer over the period.
The woman went to the High Court to seek relief for sharing her husband’s certificates with him on a 50/50 basis.
According to Briefly.co.za, Justice SA Kalembera held that the petitioner, Ellen, contributed financially or in-kind to her husband's pursuance of his tertiary education.
The court explained that the petitioner cooked for her husband, took care of four children, and did some businesses help sustain the family while the respondent was studying for the higher qualifications, it would be unfair for him to enjoy the benefit of his academic achievements alone when it was clear the petitioner had played a role, the news portal reported.
"In the matter at hand, the Petitioner was a housewife and the Defendant was the breadwinner for the family. The Petitioner contributed to the well-being of the family as a whole by among other things, cooking for the husband, the four children they were staying with, doing some businesses just to top up the family budget, and so forth...
"The husband upon completion of his tertiary education approached the court for a dissolution of his marriage to the Petitioner. Though this conduct of the Respondent might be considered unfortunate and ungrateful, it is not unusual," the court observed.
Justice Kalembera held that Ellen Tewesa had a beneficial interest or equitable claim in Chimwemwe Twesa’s educational qualifications for the time they were a married couple.
"Therefore, this court orders that the Respondent do compensates the Petitioner with a sum to be assessed by the Registrar within 30 days, for the latter’s contribution to the former’s educational qualifications," ruled Justice SA Kalembera.
Since the marriage had been dissolved before the High Court action, the judge said that Ellen would only be compensated one-off for her ex-husband’s educational achievements and would not be entitled to anything else afterward.
Regarding her request to share Chimwemwe’s educational qualifications equitably, the court ruled that determining the value of the certificates and further transfer part of knowledge acquired by the respondent to the petitioner on a 50/50 basis was unattainable.
"It would be diametrically impractical to demand the respondent to also impart the knowledge he acquired while at college to the petitioner, but also that the names in the certificates could be interchanged from Chimwemwe S Tewesa to Ellen Tewesa,” ruled the court.