DURBAN - THE KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education has raised concern about matric “pens down” parties amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Education head of department Dr Barney Mthembu said they were advising matric pupils not to attend parties that were usually held after the final exams.
Mthembu was speaking during a visit to Westville Prison on Tuesday to speak with inmates who are also writing their exams.
Nineteen inmates were writing Isizulu Home Language paper 3. They are part of more than 200 prisoners writing their matric exams this year.
Speaking on the parties, Mthembu said matric pupils should avoid super-spreader gatherings.
“We are doing our best to advise matric students that it is not right to be attending parties after the matric exams. As announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, there is a Covid-19 variant called Omicron, and matric parties can become super-spreader events.
“President Ramaphosa also said that events like this should either be avoided or postponed. We also don't want our youngsters to be exposed to things like drugs, alcohol and unprotected sex when they have just finished their matric exams.”
He added that at the parties it would be difficult for youngsters to ensure that they wore masks and sanitised their hands regularly.
Mthembu also offered words of encouragement to the inmates.
“Once you abandon your comfort zone you will be successful. We want to encourage you and say ‘the sky's the limit’. You can show everybody that you made a difference from the time you came to prison to the time you leave.”
He said the Department of Education planned to work with the Department of Correctional Services as part of the department’s Improvement Academic Programme.
“We will be conducting regular high impact visits at correctional centres. We will also create a transversal team with subject advisers for each subject.”
One of the inmates, Sanele Nyawusa, said passing the matric exams was important to him.
“This is a big chance, I failed matric before when I was outside prison and this is an opportunity for me to be a successful person. I want to pass matric, and study further to be a teacher.”
KwaZulu-Natal Department of Correctional Services acting regional commissioner, Kenneth Mthombeni, said that he commended the Department of Education as very few thought about prisoners.
“We want inmates to know that education is a tool to rehabilitate you. We want you to know that today you have made the right choice as Education becomes permanent in you.”
Mthombeni added that Correctional Services had a role to play in rehabilitating prisoners.
“We want you all to know that we are here to facilitate rehabilitation in prisoners and not to judge everybody for their past mistakes.”