‘Social ills overpowering education’
Violence undermining ability to protect teaching and learning, says Basic Education DG
BASIC Education director-general Matanzima Mweli yesterday said social ills were impacting on the education system to a point that they were requiring resources to be channelled away from the core business of the department.
Briefing the portfolio committee on basic education, Mweli said they had observed that social issues were coming thick and fast, to the extent that they were undermining the core business of teaching and learning.
“At some point we were asking ourselves whether, in terms of prioritising, what needed to be done; were we still able to protect teaching and learning?
“Some of the developments are beginning to impose in the sector, require resources and so on, which would not be allocated in basic education,” Mweli said.
He and his team, along with the SAPS, were briefing the committee on the safety in schools programme.
Mweli told parliamentarians that the social ills, which emanated from the broader civil society, undermined education and destabilised schooling.
“They make it difficult for conducive teaching and learning,” he said.
According to Mweli, experts reckon there was not necessarily an unprecedented increase in incidents related to school violence.
“There is an improvement in the advent of technology. One incident for us in education is one too many,” he said.
During the briefing, the committee heard that violence was common throughout schools in the country and that poorly managed and government schools had a higher rate of violence. School safety and bullying directly impacted on learning outcomes.
Paseka Njobe, the school safety director, said school violence was a reflection of the society in which schools were located. “There is also a correlation between school management and levels of comfort in terms of safety,” Njobe said. Highlights of the survey findings presented to the committee revealed that schools experienced violence, theft, threats, assault, sexual assault and robbery. Girl pupils were more vulnerable than any other group, as they not only faced violence en route to school, but also when they were within school or engaged in school activities. “They are most targeted in terms of other social ills,” Njobe said. A 2015 survey on corporal punishment showed it was prevalent in all provinces, with the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, North West and Free State leading the pack, while eThekwini and Mangaung led among the metros.
Mweli said corporal punishment was abolished not only in schools, but everywhere in the country.
“It is not allowed in the South African Schools Act, the constitution and even in homes.”
Njobe said another survey on bullying at schools expressed concern and showed that pupils who were not bullied scored better than those who were.
“We are alert about social issues that impact on learner attainment,” he said, adding that the correlation between bullying and pupil performance was frightening.
Interventions aimed at dealing with school violence, corporal punishment, bullying, and alcohol and substance abuse were outlined.
This entailed linking 23 000 schools to police stations, drug testing, closure of illegal shebeens and liquor outlets within a 500m radius of schools, and search and seizure at identified hotspots near schools.
Njobe said a programme would be launched in February to teach pupils how to respond to bullying.