Pupils call for smoke-free schools

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Copy of Copy of ST_07smoking0 THE STAR A pupil smokes in Naledi, Soweto. Cosas wants to ban smoking at schools. File photo: Matthews Baloyi

Johannesburg - High school pupils want teachers - and their peers - to stop smoking on school premises.

And a potential conflict looms between the Congress of SA Students (Cosas) and the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) over the student body’s intention to declare all schools smoke-free zones.

Cosas president Collen Malatji said on Thursday morning that they took the stand against smoking because teachers should be role models.

“Seeing teachers smoking openly on school premises and during school hours could lead to some learners into thinking it is ‘cool’. We believe that teachers who smoke should not be allowed do so at all during school hours, and if they do, they must do so outside the school premises - not outdoors, not on the fields, but right outside the perimeter of the school, as we believe this sets a bad example,” he said.

Cosas, he said, had approval for the campaign from Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi and said he wanted to take it nationwide.

Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke, however, told The Star on Thursday morning that he had not heard about the plan and that they would need to consult with members.

“We will have to look at the laws which govern smoking in public buildings and institutions. But this will be problematic if the law allows smoking in outdoor areas. We have to remember that teachers are adults, and they too have rights, as do those who oppose smoking.

“We will do further investigations, but as long as the law says they are allowed to smoke in certain outdoor areas, we will not call on them to stop as this will add additional burdens on them,” he said.

Gauteng Education Department spokesman

Phumla Sekhonyane said that while Lesufi supported the cause, he was mindful of the rights of others.

“We will have to consult with relevant stakeholders such as teachers, parents and school governing bodies before a policy is drawn up on this, but we support the idea,” he said.

This week Cosas apologised to vendors in the Joburg CBD whose stock was looted by rampaging pupils marching to the legislature last week. Cosas organised the protest to hand over a memorandum to Lesufi on Thursday, comprising a list of their grievances.

The pupils’ demands included a ban of application fees for tertiary institutions, “proper” food in the school feeding schemes, an end to corporal punishment and tablets for each pupil. The march, which the Joburg metro police said was unprotected because Cosas had not applied for a permit to protest, saw pupils going on a rampage, looting shops and making off with vendors’ goods.

In 2000 South Africa introduced its Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act, becoming one of the first countries in the world to ban smoking in public places.

The act prohibits smoking in restaurants, pubs, shopping centres and offices where there is no separate, enclosed smoking room.

The law says “no person may smoke any tobacco product in any indoor enclosed or partially closed areas such as covered patios, verandas, balconies, walkways, and parking areas which are open to the public and includes a workplace or a public conveyance. The fine is R500 for an individual smoker and R50 000 for the owner of a restaurant, pub or workplace”.

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