Pupils march to education department following school rampage over fines

2016-09-07 16:28
WCED office. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

WCED office. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - High school pupils travelled from Khayelitsha to the Cape Town CBD on Wednesday in a bid to engage the Western Cape education department about a R5 penalty pupils are charged for late-coming, which resulted in a riot at Joe Slovo High School on Tuesday.

Wearing their maroon and yellow school uniforms, the children made their way by train to the department's Parliament Street offices, with some demanding that their school principal be replaced.

The R5 fine may seem like a small price to pay, but some pupils are unable to cough up, one Grade 11 learner told News24.

"And if we can't pay, we have to scale the fence to get to class or clean toilets as punishment. This is not right," another said.

They also questioned what the money was being used for, demanding to know if the staff was "eating it up".

A memorandum was handed over to the department.

Department investigating

On Tuesday a group of latecomers set a classroom and rubbish bins alight, hurled stones at the building and broke the windows of a classroom where Grade 12s were writing their exams, said education department spokesperson Jessica Shelver.

The pupils were one-and-a-half hours late.

"They damaged cars on the premises, including that of the principal. The learners allegedly threw stones at the police when they arrived. This kind of behaviour is completely unacceptable," she said.

The department's district office is investigating, Shelver added.

Education MEC Debbie Schafer condemned the pupils' conduct, especially as it had taken place during the matric mock exam period.

Officials are working with the school to reschedule.

"While there are ways and means of raising issues that learners are concerned about, resorting to violence and destroying public property is not one of them. Nor will it achieve the outcomes they desire," she said.

Parents urged to get involved

Latecomers do a disservice to themselves as well as their classmates, Schafer argued.

"While we understand that sometimes there are circumstances beyond their control, serial late-coming is inexcusable. While it is not permitted to fine learners for an offence such as this, principals do have an extremely difficult time trying to instil discipline at schools. Nevertheless, this issue is being dealt with."

Schafer said schools could deal with late-coming using various approaches such as detention, compulsory after-school activities or physical activities such as picking up litter.

"Measures to curb late-coming vary from school to school. While some measures such as detention work at some schools, at others they do not. Learners cannot, however, be charged a monetary fine for being late."

Schafer said grievances listed in the memorandum, including allegations that they are charged monetary fines for a number of other offences, are being investigated by district officials.

"I appeal to learners to air their grievances in a constructive manner should they disagree with the policies being implemented at schools. I also ask parents to take these matters up with the governing body that is elected by them to represent their interests. This is where policies are supposed to be made, and the process followed should be inclusive."

Read more on:    cape town  |  education  |  protests

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