School cellphone ban call welcomed

By Michelle Jones Time of article published May 7, 2012

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There is no formal policy on the use of cellphones at schools, but Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has welcomed the call to ban them.

The National Association of School Governing Bodies called last week for a ban on children using cellphones at school.

Hope Mokgatlhe, spokeswoman for Motshekga, said: “There is no policy at the moment.

“We have heard the call by the National Association of School Governing Bodies. The minister is aware of it.

“Our position is that it is very difficult to manage the use of cellphones in schools.”

Mokgatlhe said that pupils used their phones to do research for school projects, but they also used them to communicate on social networks during class time.

“If the (association) can convince parents, teachers and learners to ban cellphones, they are welcome, because it will probably be a good thing.

“Learners will focus on their school work, and not on their social lives.

“It’s a big task. If they want to initiate this, then we welcome (it).”

Each school governing body needs to draw up a cellphone policy, and this must be linked to the school’s code of conduct, which is developed after consultation between teachers, parents and pupils.

The Cape Times found a number of cellphone policies in place at city schools.

Cellphones are banned at Milnerton High School.

According to this school’s policy, any cellphone found on a pupil will be confiscated, along with the SIM card, for five school days, if a fine of R600 is paid, or for six months if the fine is not paid.

A cellphone found on a pupil at Trafalgar High School will be confiscated, with the SIM card, for five school days and must be collected by the parent or guardian, and a demerit will be issued.

Wynberg Girls’ High School advises that pupils not bring their phones to school, but understands they are sometimes necessary for communication with parents.

Its policy is that pupils’ cellphones must be switched off and may be switched on only during the lunch break and after school to contact parents.

Other school governing bodies said that it would be impossible to enforce a ban on cellphones.

Paul Colditz, head of the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools, said the onus was on teachers to ensure phones were not used for the wrong purpose.

Tim Gordon, chief executive of the Governing Body Foundation, said it would be selfish to ban cellphones, as they were an important safety device that kept children and parents in touch.

According to the National Association of School Governing, the banning of cellphones is crucial to allow pupils to focus on their work and to “protect them against irregularities on social networks”.

Association secretary Matakanye Matakanye said that cellphones were a distraction and this led to the disintegration of the teaching environment.

“The things children find on social networks are shocking,” he said.

“They pollute children’s thoughts and prevent them from learning anything.”

It did not help to tell children that they could bring their cellphones to school, but that they were not allowed to switch them on, Matakanye said.

School governing bodies should make it a priority to revise cellphone policy. - Cape Times, Sapa

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