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Johannesburg - The Gauteng Department of Education is seeking legal advice on how to get rid of problem children who pose a threat to their peers and teachers.
Education MEC Barbara Creecy made this announcement in the legislature on Tuesday in response to the spate of violent incidents against teachers by pupils.
The schoolgoing age for pupils is seven to 15, with those completing Grade 9 able tob pursue further education or enter the workplace.
This means children in this age group must, by law, be in school or have access to some form of schooling. Schools can suspend pupils only temporarily for misdemeanours.
In cases of serious misconduct where a pupil of schoolgoing age is expelled, the department must ensure that the pupil is placed in another school or in a centre of learning within the province.
The department can exclude a pupil from the education system only if he or she is not of schoolgoing age.
Because of this policy, a problem child cannot be denied admission to school regardless of the number of times they flout the school’s code of conduct and pose a danger to other pupils and teachers.
In a move that was also welcomed by opposition parties, Creecy said she was seeking legal advice to see whether these children’s right to basic education, as enshrined in section 29 of chapter 2 of the Bill of Rights, can be upheld at the expense of other pupils and teachers’ right to freedom and security as stipulated in section 12 of that same chapter.
Constitutional law expert Professor Shadrack Gutto, from Unisa, said both rights were important.
He said that as much as teachers have the right to personal security and other pupils the right to be taught in safe environment, young offenders also have the right to a basic education.
Gutto, who said it was good that the government has raised this issue, suggested that pupils who posed a threat to their teachers and peers be schooled at special facilities that have a multidisciplinary approach to educate and assist in rehabilitating them. “We’d have the resources because we’re talking about a minority of children here,” he said.
Creecy urged teachers to come forward and lay criminal charges if victimised by pupils, saying the department would support them with the process.
“We can’t have a situation where little hooligans take the law into their hands and think that our educators are fair game.”
Creecy said that reporting these cases to the police would also enable the offending pupils to access rehabilitative and diversion programmes offered by Correctional Services, which the Education Department couldn’t provide.
“It’s important for children to be put in a rehabilitative programme so they don’t turn into hardened criminals,” she said.