Picture: Dumisani Dube
Picture: Dumisani Dube

Grade R made compulsory, parents can face a year in prison for not complying

By Harvest Thwala Time of article published Dec 13, 2021

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PARENTS withholding their children from attending Grade R with no just cause could face up to 12 months imprisonment, the Department of Basic Education has warned.

This is according to the amendment bill made to the Schools’ Act published by the Department of Basic Education.

The new Amendment Bill of Basic Education states that school attendance is compulsory from Grade R and no longer from Grade 1, as is currently the case. Previously schools attendance was compulsory from Grade 1.

Anyone who blocks a child from attending school without just cause including parents, schools or governing bodies would be guilty of an offence and face a possible fine and/or imprisonment.

According to education activist Hendrik Makenete, the bill states that, “if a child is not at school for a period of three days the principal has a duty to communicate with a parent within 24 hours to find out what is happening to that learner”.

Among other proposals, the bill aims to ensure that the governing bodies guard in unfair discrimination in respect of official languages that are offered as subject options, initiation and corporal punishment, conditions under which alcohol may be on school premises, and the code of conduct for schools.

Education expert, Professor Mary Metcalf of Wits University, welcomed the bill. But she said that it is not enough to tackle the issue of dropout rates in schools.

“This provision in the bill doesn’t go far enough, because it says that if the learner is absent from school for three days consecutively the principal must act, that’s good but it’s not enough. Dropout doesn’t happen suddenly, dropout happens because learners become disengaged from school and that means sporadic attendance and that means you might miss a day every day, and so forth.

“It’s the pattern of non-attendance that we really need the government to support schools to react to. Dropout is a big issue… We really need to address patterns of non-attendance, because it’s the patterns of disengagements that leads to dropouts.

The new amended bill is yet to be published for public comment.

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