Himarwa tackle fears on education bill

 

Basic education minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, has allayed various fears and brought clarification on a number of issues raised by law makers in connection with the education bill.

 

Himarwa said in light of teachers impregnating learners, her ministry can not intervene where misconduct has not been reported and thus the school staff and parents have to take responsibility.

 

She said that while no criminal liability may arise but anyone who impregnates a leaner above 16-years of age will have the obligation towards her and the child to be born.

 

Again, parents will have to stand up and be vocal against such perpetrators and report to relevant authorities while such leaners will have to be readmitted into schools soon after giving birth.

 

Said the minister, “I would also like to emphasis the point that education alone can not solve some of these social challenges. It should be our joint responsibilities as parliamentarians and policy makers to work together with communities to address some challenges facing our young people.”

 

Law makers have also expressed unhappiness with clause 9(3) of the bill which says that a child older than six years who has not been admitted in any school should be admitted in a grade appropriate to his or her ability and age.

 

This has caused damage in grade 10 and 12, law makers expressed adding that admission should rather be based on their achievement and competency.

 

The minister responded by saying that the regional school councillor in conjunction with the life skills teacher provide support to ensure older learners are appropriately placed and supported by the school management to achieve required learning competencies.

 

With reference to clause 12(3)(e) some law makers inquired whether the provision of medical services to children with disabilities meant that mobile clinics would visit schools more often.

 

“There is a dedicated person at the school designated to administer medication as prescribed by a doctor or a qualified nurse, while observing the issue of integrity and confidentiality of the learner,” Himarwa clarified.

 

She said this applied to those leaners known to suffer from certain diseases while in normal circumstances the life skills and supervisory teacher may administer the medication.

 

Some have requested for sign language to be an official language but the minister stamped that English will remain recognised as such although her ministry would make sure sign language teachers are increased.

 

On the issue of reintroducing compulsory bible studies, the minister said the Prosecutor General has written that the state must be neutral towards the different religions of the country.

 

This neutrality also extended to the teaching of specific religious education at the exclusion of other religions in public and state aided schools, she submitted.

 

“We however wish to point out that teaching of religious studies in public schools would not amount to a violation of the constitution,” she said.

 

Law makers also wanted to know how the bill would deal with underperforming schools and wanted the minister to establish penalties.

 

The bill, said Himarwa, has provisions for a ministerial intervention in such instances while the first aim would be to provide support, failure of which would bring other interventions.

 

 Part of these is for the regional director to appoint an academic mentor to assist the functions and responsibilities of the principal of an underperforming school for a determined period.