‘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.

Matanz­ima Mweli

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