Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - THE decision to put four teenagers - who were expelled from school - into a study camp, has been met with caution by child rights activists and education stakeholders.

St Francis College, a private Catholic school in Mariannhill, had expelled the children for breaching the school’s code of conduct. The four, aged between 16 and 17, were part of a group of 13 who engaged in drug use at the school and were expelled.

Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu recently intervened in the matter and, of the 13 pupils, nine were re-instated.

Education spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said the remaining four, are now at a training camp in uLundi, as the department felt they deserved to “have a second chance in life”.

The department selects 1000 children from around the province, from Grades 8 and 9, who excel in Maths, to attend the camp. Mthethwa said the aim of the camp, which runs until December 15, was to steer children towards a career in aviation. English and Life Orientation would also be taught, and one day of the camp would be dedicated to a careers expo.

Mthethwa said they would discuss placing the pupils for next year with their parents and look at the available options.

However, Vee Gani, chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal Parents Association, said it was worrying that these pupils are attending the camp because they could be ill-disciplined and a bad influence on other children. He also questioned why the expelled boys would be placed with other children when they had not been properly rehabilitated.

Gani felt other children who had been expelled for lesser offences would feel hard done by the department’s action. “Where is the consistency with other children?” he asked.

Gani agreed that everyone deserved a second chance and hoped there would be control mechanisms to ensure the boys did not become unruly.

Child rights activist Joan van Niekerk said it was a matter of balancing the rights of the expelled children and those of others attending the camp.

She said a good approach would be for the boys to be split into different classes. “Divide and rule might be the best way of doing it,” she said.

Van Niekerk said it was also possible that the boys, who might see themselves as having their backs against the wall, might engage in more rebellious behaviour. The children needed to learn more about taking responsibility for their actions. She said restorative justice should be considered. This would ensure the boys restored balance for the harm they had caused.

Daily News