Parents protest detention

2013-03-27 00:00

STAYING behind after classes might be an age-old school punishment, but it has some parents at Voortrekker High School in the city seeing red.

Under new disciplinary rules introduced at the start of the year, offending pupils can be given a six-hour detention which can run as late as 8 pm.

Concerned parents have warned that this is too late for children to be walking home, often unaccompanied.

Moreover, some pupils cross a local stream in the dark on their way home, parents said.

They pointed out that detention lasted for six hours after school, with only a five-minute break, and no food or transport home.

One mother, who asked to remain anonymous, said her daughter had received several detentions after coming to school with dyed hair.

The pupil was told to stay in detention each Friday from 2 pm until 8 pm, until the dye had grown out, her mother said.

Although she had asked the school for permission for her daughter to miss one Friday detention — to help the family move house — the girl was penalised with an extra two Friday detentions for being absent.

“When I went to pick her up at 8 pm on that occasion, I noticed a girl pupil walking. I inquired whether she had a lift and she said, no, she had to walk.

“I said under no circumstances would I allow a young girl to walk alone at that time of the night, so I dropped her at her home.”

She said there had also been an incident when the school gates were locked and several pupils on detention were stuck inside the grounds.

“Some kids climbed over the palisade fence.

“I shudder to think what would have happened if one slipped and got impaled on the spikes at the top.”

Another mother said she did not have a car to fetch her child after 8 pm, and that although she paid R1 200 a month for her child to be taken to and from school, there was no official transport home for her child at 8 pm on a Friday.

“I think it should be against the law for a child to sit that long and I don’t trust just anyone to pick up my child.

“If they don’t care about their children, I certainly care about mine,” she said.

Explaining the demerit system, a parent said some offences attracted about five points, including chewing gum in class or not doing homework.

Long hair warranted 15 points and smoking 40 points.

Voortrekker principal Jan Nel said that detention was a part of the school’s code of conduct and was in line with the South African Schools Act.

“That’s the way we operate,” he said, adding that the authority to give detention fell under the school governing body’s jurisdiction.

Nel declined to respond to a list of questions The Witness sent him.

Education Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said parents agreed to a school’s code of conduct when they enrolled their children. Detention was an alternative to corporal punishment, he said.

“We’re 100% behind schools that enforce discipline, as long as it is done within policy,” he said.

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