Proposed pol­icy aims to clamp down on af­ter-dark events, al­co­hol and par­ents’ ‘ob­scene’ spend­ing

Sunday Times - - NEWS - PREGA GOVENDER

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.

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