The case of the Pinetown pupil, who wasn’t allowed to write his exams made to sit in the art centre while his classmates wrote their exams because his parents were about R4 000 behind on school fees, should be the last of its kind.
A Durban high court ruled it was unlawful for private schools to exclude pupils from writing exams, if their school fees had not been paid, without following proper procedure.
Judge Mokgere Masipa(cor) said the best practice would be to engage in collection methods that were in the child’s best interests, and in a manner which did not victimise or humiliate the child.
While the Constitutional Court prohibited corporal punishment in schools in 2000, another triumph came in October 2018last year when a South Gauteng High Court judge ruled that physical discipline or “chastisement”, even by parents, violated children’s rights.
Last year, KwaZulu-Natal was rocked by a video of a Phoenix mother beating her four-year-old, known as Baby G. The clip went viral.
What this means for schools is that they must have a code of conduct for pupils. The code must provide for alternative ways of maintaining discipline such as positive reinforcement, the withdrawal of privileges and daily reports.
Racial discrimination, too, is being vetted at educational institutions globally.
In London, Chikayzea Flanders, 12, who was put in isolation on his first day at Fulham Boys’ School because his dreadlocks did not comply with the rules, is one of the children featured in a research paper.
The paper was compiled by Dr Remi Joseph-Salisbury(cor), a presidential fellow in ethnicity and inequalities at Manchester University, and Dr Laura ConnellyConnolly, a lecturer in criminology at Salford University.
The academic work suggests schools that ban dreadlocks and braids, essentially policing black hair, are using slave-era techniques to “maintain white supremacy”, the Daily Mail reported.
It added: “White social control of black hair has deep roots in enslavement and colonialism, and notions of black hair as messy and antithetical to school discipline (and therefore success) are both naturalised and widespread.”
Whatever the issue, in short, knowledge and awareness are up to parents, who are ultimately responsible for their children, said Vee Gani, of the Parents’ Association of KwaZulu-Natal.
“A number of parents think school is a day care role and loath homework, but homework is necessary in subjects that have to be practised to be mastered, such as maths.”
You can find the rights and responsibilities of parents, pupils and public schools in the Public School Policy Guide published by the Department of Education online.
If you read it, you will know for instance that without consultation parents cannot be forced to buy different summer and winter uniforms, a pregnant female pupil cannot be forced to leave school and a school may take legal action against you for not paying school fees.