Sipokazi, a mother of three, recently reached out to us for a helping hand.
In late 2019 her ten and thirteen year old daughters were permanently banned from attending their Cape Town school's aftercare facilities, and she wanted to know what her rights are in this case.
The concerned mother explained how her daughters were banned after she was late to collect them, exceeding the school's policy of three late collections per year, by arriving late on six occasions in 2019. Each time she was just a few minutes late, and was fined R10 for each minute, as per the school's policy.
"As the parents we strongly feel that it's grossly wrong for the child'd safety to be put at risk because of lateness of parents, which parents get fined for already," Sipokazi told us.
Their older child has since moved to a new school, but their ten-year-old now has nowhere to go after school each day.
"My husband and I both work full-time and we live about 15km from the school and work in town so there is no way that we can fetch her," she explained. "There is also no way that a 10-year-old girl can travel home alone or stay home alone for that matter. We've argued that she is very vulnerable at her age."
Sipokazi explained that the headmaster had agreed that the policy is unfair particularly given the fact that it terminates aftercare for the rest of the child's school career, but won't readmit her, as he will then be setting a precedent.
"I think we have a huge problem at schools that seem to be so petty and so stringent about their policies at the expense of learners' safety," Sipokazi said.
She told Parent24 that the aftercare doesn't take into consideration working parents, and that the policy is grossly unfair as at the end it punishes the children for the fault of their parents, adding that kicking a child out of aftercare goes against the "safe learning environment" that the school purports to strive for or provide.
We asked LAW FOR ALL for advise and Nomzamo Sinaze, a Legal Professional at the local law business responded:
"Aftercare facilities form part of a school’s programme and as part of a school programme aftercare facilities are to be governed by the school Governing Body and a review of the aftercare policy forms part of the School Governing Body’s functions.
The South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 does not specifically deal with the policies and guidelines of aftercare facilities at schools.
However, the Act does under Section 20, provide the functions of a governing body and Section 20(1)(a) Subject to this Act, the governing body of a public school must – (a) promote the best interests of the school and strive to ensure its development through the provision of quality education for all learners at the school.
Review the policy
"Aftercare is just not a place where children are placed to sleep and play - it also steps in for the working parent, who might not have enough time to assist the children with their homework. Aftercare assists in the homework and other programmes to aid in the development of the child.
Section 21 provides for Allocated functions of the governing body and, as part of the allocated functions, a governing body may review and consider the policy of the aftercare programme that is being offered by the school.
A governing body that does not consider the best interests of the child as being of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child and the safety of a child at the school then that governing body has failed in their mandate.
"As mentioned above the Act is silent on Aftercare facilities but there is a responsibility in the hands of the Principal and the governing body of the school to adhere to the Children’s Act, the Constitution of the country and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
The guiding principles of the UNCRC represent the underlying requirements for any and all rights to be realised and the Best Interests of the Child form part of that realisation. Schools that neglect to consider such statutes fail with their mandate and should be called to respond as expelling a child from a programme that adds onto their development and well-being without due consideration of all the factors involved is not following the correct legal measures.
In understanding that a school must set a certain precedent and have a code of conduct that is adhered to, that school should also consider other ways and forms of penalising a parent who is not adhering to the guidelines without punishing the child so harshly.
"In this particular case, there is a penalty fee that the parent has to pay every time she collects a child late and following that the child is also expelled from the aftercare programme. In this instance the parent is being punished twice for the same offence, which is not correct or proper.
The specific school governing body in question should have heard the side of the parents and taken all the factors involved into consideration and if it means reviewing the aftercare policies, then they must.
Times change and parents have to travel long distances between their work places, their homes and children’s school.
This consideration should be viewed with caution especially in the Western Cape where transport and traffic are an extreme problem."
Therefore, in Sinaze's professional opinion the principal and the school governing body must reconsider the decision they have taken to expel the minor child from the aftercare as it violates numerous of the child’s rights in terms of the Constitution and the UNCRC.
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