Proposed policy aims to clamp down on after-dark events, alcohol and parents’ ‘obscene’ spending
PICTURE your child’s matric dance. Do you see limos, designer evening wear, a glitzy venue, drunken antics and teenage groping?
Or do you see a talk by a motivational speaker in the school hall, followed by a dance that ends before dusk, and then signing a register to confirm your teen has arrived safely back home?
If the Mpumalanga education department has anything to do with it, the second option will soon become mandatory.
The department has gazetted a radical draft policy following a horrific matric dance season in the province last year, in which a pupil disappeared from a Durban hotel during matric farewell festivities — and has not been seen since — and a car crash in which four pupils died while returning from a matric dance after-party.
Liquor bottles were reportedly found in the vehicle.
The province also wants to clamp down on sexual relationships between teachers and pupils, including the exchange of gifts for favours. The policy proposes that:
Schools be banned from holding matric dances outside the province, at hotels or at any venue other than school premises;
The matric farewell take place between 2pm and 6pm in July or August — not September, when most are held, as this can interfere with preparation for exams;
Schools seek written permission from the department at least 30 days before the event, provide a safety plan and take out insurance to cover damage to property or injury to a pupil; and
Parents sign a register after the event confirming that they have “received their children” back from the care of the principal.
The National Association of School Governing Bodies, which represents more than 600 governing bodies in Mpumalanga, has gone a step further, with president Elpheus Maseko recommending that the afternoon event include a motivational speaker “to prepare learners for life beyond matric”.
Mpumalanga education spokesman Jasper Zwane said matric dances had become characterised by “obscene amounts of money” being spent on cars, expensive outfits and celebrities accompanying children.
“At times, parents go out of their way to outdo each other to ensure that their children represent their bank balances and social status,” he said.
Lowveld High in Nelspruit has banned parents from hiring helicopters to ferry their children to the matric dance, the use of motorbike escorts and the hiring of traditional dancers to announce the arrival of children.
The school’s headmistress, Jane Wandrag, said matrics regarded the “arrivals” at the dance as the most important feature of the event.
“What I hate is seeing a learner arriving in a limousine and in an outfit costing thousands of rands and I know that the parent is behind in school fees. That gives me high blood pressure.”
Debbie Goosen, owner of Skyview Helicopter Charters in Gauteng, said her company flew at least 10 pupils during the annual matric dance season. Her hourly rate is R8 995.
She said they shut down the chopper’s engine before the girls disembarked to prevent their hair from being ruffled.
Martin van der Merwe, branch manager of Status Luxury Vehicles in Cape Town, said a parent hired a Ferrari F430 Spider for R9 500 last month.
“At least one or two parents a month spend more than R10 000 hiring a vehicle for their children’s matric ball,” he said.
The most popular vehicles to hire were Bentleys and S-Class Mercedes-Benzes.
The Mpumalanga draft policy on dances has received widespread support.
Commenting on the education department’s Facebook page, Portia N’wa-David Ntimba wrote that matric dances should be scrapped altogether because they were a waste of money.
Nomcebo Zwane praised the department.
“What needs to be discarded is the afterparty, where a number of learners have lost their lives due to indulgence in al- coholic beverages.”
Several other provinces are also clamping down.
The Eastern Cape has banned afterparties and has recommended to schools that the matric farewell end at 8pm.
The Northern Cape issued a circular to schools earlier this year asking them to hold the event before the end of this month so that matrics had more time to prepare for exams.
Limpopo’s education department said it did not place emphasis on the matric dance but rather encouraged pupils to “focus on learning”.
KwaZulu-Natal said schools had to seek permission before holding a matric dance.
Gauteng and the Western Cape said they had no official restrictions on how to manage matric dances.