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Schools should get ministerial approval before expelling pupils- Steenkamp

Sun, 13 September 2015 17:04
by Donald Matthys

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture Sanet Steenkamp urged schools to follow protocol before deciding to expel learners. 

She told The Villager that expulsions are allowed, as long as they are applied correctly and in the best interest of all parties involved. 

Once the behaviour of a learner becomes a danger to other learners or the teacher involved, her office has the right, according to Education Act 16 of 2001, to permit the expulsion of that particular learner involved. 

“As Permanent Secretary of this Ministry, parents are mandated to appeal to my office if they feel their child had been expelled from school for misbehaving. 

No principal has the right to expel pupils from school for misbehaving before they have followed all proper expulsion procedures,” Steenkamp said. 

She added that the difference between expulsion and suspension should be understood. 

A disciplinary hearing on a charge of misconduct must be held before the school board within 20 days from the date the learner was charged. 

After 20 days of being suspended from school due to misconduct, a learner is supposed to be back in school. 

The Education Act 16 of 2001 indicates that within 14 days of receipt of the recommendation of the school board and all documents having been submitted to the Permanent Secretary and after consideration of such recommendation and documents, the PS may expel a learner from the State school or hostel. 

“Since I took over my current position, I have dealt with cases of learners being expelled from school, and I have dealt with expulsions. Although it is not so common, we have dealt with expelling learners through my office as appealed to by principals from various schools,” she explained. 

Steenkamp said learners are mostly dismissed from schools through expulsion and suspensions due to disrespect towards teachers and fellow learners, and for breaking rules stipulated by schools. 

The Act also states that the Permanent Secretary must in writing notify the parent of the decision to expel the learner from the State school or hostel, or upon request of the parent made within seven days of receipt of the notification referred to, furnish the parent with a copy of the record of proceedings, documented evidence as well as reasons and recommendations submitted to her office. 

The Permanent Secretary, if in her opinion she does not find any valid reason for the suspension of the child, can cancel the suspension. 

However, the cancellation of a suspension of a learner does not affect any proceedings in connection with the charge of misconduct against such learner. 

The unhappy parent of a suspended child may within the timespan of 14 days from the date of the child’s expulsion permitted by the Permanent Secretary’s decision to expel their child, appeal to the Minister of Education against the decision of the Permanent Secretary. 

The Minister may within 20 days of receipt allow the appeal of the parent in whole or in part, or set aside the decision of expulsion or suspension of the learner from a State school or hostel, and dismiss the appeal or confirm the decision. 

On another score, according to the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), the Policy on School Pregnancies shows that a girl who becomes pregnant is by law supposed to be allowed back to the same public school after one year’s absence. 

However, the girls will have to give proof that they have someone responsible looking after their baby, criteria many cannot meet.