Bonnievale residents are taking action against a high rate of absenteeism and bunking among the town’s pupils following the murder of a six-year-old boy.
Franklin Prins, a Grade R pupil at Bruintjiesrivier Primary int he Western Cape town, was strangled last Friday, allegedly by a 16-year-old boy.
Franklin was supposed to be in school on the day but had allegedly got off the school bus.
Local councillor Errol Vollenhoven said residents didn’t want Franklin’s death to be in vain.
They have launched an anti-bunking campaign called Nek-omdraai vir Stokkiesdraai (wringing the neck of truancy).
“We want his death to lead to something positive in our community. Our adults have to look after our children. If children are of schoolgoing age they must be in school.”
Vollenhoven said absenteeism at one of the schools was between 30 and 40 percent.
On Thursday, residents, joined by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, visited a number of homes to ensure children of schoolgoing age were not at home.
They found a number of children at home. The reasons for their truancy ranged from involvement in gangsterism to not being able to afford school shoes.
One boy, who was believed to be in Grade 9, initially told a resident he was not at school because he had to baby-sit.
However, when a family member arrived later she said the boy usually went to school but didn’t go to class on Thursday because he didn’t have school shoes or a school jersey.
Motshekga also visited Bonnievale Primary School, where she had discussions with teachers, and Bruintjiesrivier Primary, where she visited Franklin’s Grade R class.
She also visited his mother, Fransiena, who sobbed while the minister spoke to her.
Bonnievale Primary deputy principal Cathy Roodman said that following three days of absence, the school would send a letter to the child’s parents. Another letter, phone calls and home visits would follow, but policy stated that after 10 days the child was removed from the system.
“I think 10 days are not enough,” she added.
Motshekga said a way would have to be found to ensure the policy was not working against what the department was trying to achieve.
Bruintjiesrivier Primary principal Andri Willemse said his pupils had received counselling through the district education office following Franklin’s death.
He said absenteeism at his school was not very high. The reasons for it included children doing shopping with their parents.
Willemse said some of the problems in the community included alcohol abuse, illiteracy and a lack of food.
Last week, 55 children were found bunking in Athlone during a joint operation by police, the Department of Social Development, Traffic Services and the education department.
Bronagh Casey, the spokeswoman for Education MEC Donald Grant, said that last year, 907 cases of truancy were reported through the provincial education department’s district offices or through its call centre.
She said the department had 23 safety fieldworkers in the province, whose responsibilities included dealing with truancy.
Casey said the policy on pupil attendance stipulated the responsibilities of the pupil, school, parents and the education department.
This stated that should a pupil be absent for three consecutive days without explanation the class teacher had to report this to the principal.
“The school should follow up with parents regarding the absenteeism. The incident should also be reported to the education department for further follow-up should the learner still not return to school after seven days,” said Casey.