Pupils only know their rights, not their responsibilities - teacher

2018-03-22 19:54
Human rights poster for schools. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Human rights poster for schools. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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Cape Town – With daily experiences of crime, violence and gang activity in and around schools in Cape Town, there is a greater need for children to understand and exercise both their human rights and responsibilities, a teacher said on Thursday.

"We noticed that learners didn’t know their responsibilities, they only know their rights," said Ncumisa Hlwele, who taught life orientation at Hlengisa Junior Secondary School in Nyanga.

She was speaking at an information session by the SA Human Rights Commission, which recently visited schools to understand some of the problems they faced.

The session was attended by teachers and some of their pupils.

Hlwele, who graduated as a teacher in 2015, said schools were not immune from societal issues and were not safe spaces.

"Even inside with learners, we are not safe with them."

Teachers could not leave things in the classroom because some pupils had stolen their cellphones or school equipment, such as headphones for computers.

"If [they are] learner[s], [they have] a right to come to school. You won’t chase [them] away, so we are not safe with them."

'We just accept it'

Like many teachers, Hlwele uses public transport and she said she could easily be targeted outside the school.

One of her pupils said Nyanga was well known as a crime hotspot; but the violence started in school already.

"They use scissors. You can’t take that away from them, because they use it to cut paper."

Last year, she witnessed a group of Grade 9s fighting with scissors.

She said one of the boys she witnessed fighting had died last year because he was in a gang.

Children did not flinch when gunshots were fired "because we hear it every day", she said.

With her sights set on becoming a chartered accountant, she said she had no choice but to stay in school and hope for the best.

"We just accept it. It’s what I have to do to become what I want in life."

Another pupil from Mfuleni High School, 15, said gang-related incidents happened almost every week, and "people mostly want to fit in".

'Even girls are in gangs'

She said children did not always know how to protect themselves.

"Even girls are in gangs. Every day it is spreading. Even in primary schools, they have knives and get ready to fight after school."

Her Life Orientation teacher, Mantshebo Lekensie, said she wanted to encourage pupils away from gangs because, most of the time, they did not care about their education and ended up dropping out.

SAHRC commissioner for basic education Andre Gaum, who led the session, said they had noted problems with crime, gangs and drug abuse after visiting schools across the Cape Flats.

Some schools also had issues with their infrastructure.

Their aim was to make every pupil aware of their rights and the process involved in lodging a human rights violation with the SAHRC.

They planned to visit more schools soon.

Read more on:    cape town  |  human rights  |  education

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