Suspended after schoolyard proposal
DET takes dim view of marriage proposal
WHILE education officials have taken a dim view of the conduct of two teenagers whose marriage proposal was sealed with a smack on the lips in front of other pupils, and went viral on social media, an education psychologist reckons the pupils are over the age of 16 and able to consent legally to intimate contact.
The heat was on in education circles when a 18-year-old pupil proposed marriage to a 16-year-old girl at Tholukwazi Secondary School, in Tsakane Ekurhuleni, by pulling out a ring, and then kissing her in front of cheering and excited pupils.
When the video went viral, education authorities moved swiftly and suspended the two love birds. They deemed their actions inappropriate, especially the kissing which they said was “indecent”.
Gauteng Department of Education spokesperson Steve Mabona said they would not condone a marriage proposal in the school premises, saying it was inappropriate and the pupils acted indecently by kissing in front of other learners.
“The school code of conduct prohibits learners from acts deemed inappropriate, such as kissing or fighting on the school premises. Schools are institutions of learning and teaching, where learners should study towards a better future.
“They acted indecently by kissing in front of other learners and educators. Hence, they were immediately suspended and appeared in the disciplinary process. But they are expected to come to resume their classes tomorrow,” Mabona said.
The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) said: “The marriage proposal is unacceptable in the school. The school is about learning, not a place for marriage.”
Sadtu spokesperson Mugwena Maluleke said: “Once we accept these kind of things to happen in the school, then it will lose the meaning of learning and teaching. The school is not a ground for marriage proposals. Pupils should enter the class to learn ... teachers to teach”.
However, Education psychologist Christian Uitzinger said the suspension was too harsh for the pupils, whose only sin was to display love. “In my mind, neither the marriage proposal nor the public display of affection constitutes a serious offence,” he said.
Both learners are over the age of 16, therefore able to consent legally to intimate contact.
“I understand the public display of affection may have contravened the school’s code of conduct, but suspension seems a disproportionately harsh sanction for ... a harmless display of love and affection between two love-struck teenagers, rather than a malicious and intentional disregard for the rules.
“The fact that the school confiscated the ring seems to suggest that they took more issue with the proposal itself, rather than display of affection. Yes, the couple are very young and education should be their priority. However, being involved in an intimate relationship as older pupil is not developmentally inappropriate – it is completely normal,” he explained.
“Perhaps a discussion with the young couple around the appropriateness of their choice of venue for the proposal, as well as a reminder about the school rules regarding public affection would have been far more constructive than a suspension. If anything, the suspension is likely to have a far more negative impact on couple’s education than their relationship.”
“There is a tendency to see intimate relationships among teenagers as bad and potentially dangerous. All this does is drive these relation- ships underground and associates sexuality with shame and embarrassment. In the process, we lose out on the opportunity to celebrate and discuss with young people the beautiful of aspects, such as commitment, faithfulness, equality and mutual respect.”
Reports also said parents of the pupils were happy with the marriage proposal, but the community of Tsakane Ekurhuleni had mixed feelings about it.
A woman who resides near the school said marriage is not for the school yard and should be taken elsewhere: “I heard they live together, so why should they bring this to the school yard.”
Another woman said:“We understand they love each other but a school is a place for learning, not marriage. We pity teachers when things like this are happening in the schools. What he did is a disgrace.”
Yet another urged government to deter such behaviour in the schools. “I found it very disgusting.This will encourage other kids to get married in the school yard. We are not going to accept this behaviour.”
However, Sipho Mohudi was impressed by the couple’s decision: “I got no problem with them, in fact I am happy for them. Whether he did it (proposed) in the school or shebeen, the important thing is that they love each other. Most successful marriages start at school,” he said.
A 42-year-old mother, although sceptical, conceded that the couple made their decision out of love. “Our society is in crisis ... we just have to accept that they love each other and are ready to live together.”