Lerato Park ward councillor Paul Kok and a group of community members chased after a group of children who disappeared down the mine shafts on Tuesday morning. They retrieved the pupils’ school bags, which they had abandoned along the way.
“Some of these pupils last attended classes in January and have never been back. We will return the school books and bags to the schools to report the truant pupils,” said Kok.
He added that they had also searched for “ghost shanties” in Lerato Park, which were being used as drug dens and criminal havens.
“If we find children using drugs in these shacks, we will demolish them.”
Residents said that groups of girls and boys between the ages of 12 and 14 years, dressed in their school uniforms, headed to the abandoned mines in the morning, where they remained for the entire day.
“Many of the pits are not enclosed and there is easy access down the mines. Sometimes some of the girls pass out on the ground after ingesting substances. We are worried that they may be raped or that they may become victims of crime in the isolated mines. Their parents are aware that they are not going to school but are not doing anything to deter them. These children are carelessly throwing their lives away.”
A small boy fell to his death while playing too close to the edge of one of the unrehabilitated mines in the area.
All open pits, according to regulations, are supposed to be enclosed and manned by security and should be clearly demarcated as mining areas.
Spokesperson for the provincial Department of Education, Geoffrey van der Merwe, stated that before pupils could be considered for progression they were not allowed to be absent without a valid reason for more than 20 days.
“Absenteeism is recorded and monitored by each school. Schools should inform parents if their pupils are absent for an extended period.”
He added that the department was not able to say for how long these truant pupils were absent from school, unless all the names of the pupils and schools that they attended were provided.
“There are procedures to deal with misconduct and expulsion can only be considered in serious misconduct cases and only after a guilty verdict in a formal hearing.”
Police spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Dimakatso Mooi, advised that the public are not permitted to occupy unused mine shafts, as it posed a danger to them.
“The police urge community members to report any criminal activities taking place at their nearest police station or at 8000 10111. We further urge parents to work together with the police in ensuring the safety of the children.”
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