Sus­pended af­ter school­yard pro­posal

DET takes dim view of mar­riage pro­posal

The Sunday Independent - - NEWS -

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.”

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