ConCourt hears school pregnancy case

2013-03-05 14:35
The Constitutional Court (Picture: Sapa)

The Constitutional Court (Picture: Sapa)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Johannesburg - A school governing body has no legal right to exclude pregnant pupils from school, the Constitutional Court heard on Tuesday.

"Whatever the power of governing bodies to add pregnancy policies, they cannot have the power to exclude pregnant learners from schools," said lawyer Matthew Chaskalson.

He is appearing for the Free State education department head, in a case about two schools which tried to keep pregnant pupils away until the year after their babies were born.

Code of conduct

Chaskalson said that even in terms of a code of conduct, a school could not issue such an order.

A code of conduct could deal with sexually inappropriate conduct, but could not exclude a pupil in the same way as a pregnancy policy.

In terms of the law, the longest suspension allowed pending the completion of a disciplinary matter is 14 days.

Asked whether a child should be allowed to give birth at school, Chaskalson replied that pregnancy and childbirth involved fundamental rights, and that not allowing a birth at school would be a justifiable limitation of a right.

The case involved the pregnancy policies of Welkom High School and Harmony High School.

The policy excludes pupils when they are pregnant and makes them leave school for the rest of the year that they give birth, irrespective of whether they are well enough to go back to school, or have the capacity to catch up on missed work.

It permits them to return the next year to re-do the year.

The Free State education head of department tried to intervene on the grounds that this was unconstitutional and also illegal.

It was unconstitutional because it breached pupils' rights to education, and was illegal because pupils had to attend school until a certain age.

The head of department argued that, as the principals' boss, they should have complied with his instructions.

Infringing on powers of governing bodies

However, the schools contend that his telling them what to do regarding their pregnancy policy infringed on the powers of their governing bodies.

The Free State High Court ruled against the department and said the head of department could order the schools to change governing bodies' policies if he had a problem with them, or could apply for a court order to do so.

Although the case of the two pupils who were originally excluded was eventually resolved, the head of department wants the Constitutional Court to address the issue so that he does not have to approach a court every time a pupil is kept out of school by a school governing body after giving birth.

Chaskalson said forcing the head of department to go to court every time there was a disagreement would be a waste of money which could be better spent on a feeding scheme, for example.

Also, expecting parents to take on school governing bodies was not the answer either.

The mother of one of the pupils who sparked the case had to hitchhike to Bloemfontein to take it further because she did not have money for taxi fare.

"It is fanciful to think she and other parents in her position would be able to approach the high court to protect her children from having their rights violated," said Chaskalson.

He said the current national provision relating to pregnancy at schools was that pupils should return as soon as possible.

Read more on:    bloemfontein  |  education

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Competition regulation for a growing and inclusive economy

ADVERTORIAL: The Competition Commission of South Africa is conducting advocacy work in the South African automotive aftermarket industry and has gazetted a Draft Code of Conduct for public comment.

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.