Africa News Service, May 18, 1998

South Africa: Guidelines Set for Codes of Conduct to Uphold Pupils Rights
By Primarashni Pillay

Johannesburg (Business Day, May 18, 1998) - Pregnant schoolgirls may not be turned away from school and expelled pupils of school going age must be relocated to another school "setting", in terms of education department guidelines published in the Government Gazette last week.

The guidelines have been released in terms of the SA Schools Act which requires governing bodies of state schools to adopt codes of conduct aimed at establishing a disciplined, purposeful learning environment.

The gazette stipulated that codes had to involve the participation of parents, learners, educators and noneducators. Their focus should be "positive discipline", which facilitated learning, rather than a "punitive and punishment-oriented" approach.

Thami Mseleku, adviser to Education Minister Sibusiso Bengu, said yesterday that SA schools had not previously been required to have codes of conduct. "There were grey areas which led to some schools abusing their power by excluding girls who became pregnant. The aim of the code of conduct at schools is to protect the learner."

The guidelines stipulate that in cases of suspension and expulsion, pupils have to be placed in an alternate school setting.

Options to be considered with school psychologists were the reassignment to another class, correctional education under supervision after school hours and relocation to a special school for learners with behavioural disorders.

"The right of a learner to education cannot be taken away when the learner is expelled from school," the gazette stated.

The guidelines also set out procedures to be followed in cases of threatened suspension or expulsion, including a disciplinary tribunal at which pupils could be represented by legal counsel and had the right of appeal. Pupils aggrieved by decisions of governing bodies had the right of appeal to provincial education MECs.

The guidelines codified pupils' rights as well as offences for which they could be suspended which included hate speech, sexism and racism.

In addition, the guidelines extended the right of freedom of expression to choices of clothing and hair style. [Emphasis added]

They stipulated that corporal punishment should not be administered at schools and that the parents had a right to take legal action against any educator or learner who violated the constitutional rights of children. [Emphasis added]

"Educators and learners have to learn the importance of mediation and co-operation, to seek and negotiate nonviolent solutions to conflict and differences and to make use of the due process of law," the gazette stated. [Emphasis added]

Copyright 1998 Business Day. Distributed via Africa News Online.

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