DA calls on schools, dept to assist SAHRC with investigations

By Safiyia Stanfley, MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson on Education in the Northern Cape:

The Democratic Alliance calls on schools and the department of Education to assist the South African Human Rights Commission if and when investigations are launched into practices at schools.

We are worried that two schools in the Northern Cape have not responded to letters from the SAHRC in their investigations into corporal punishment at schools. Corporal punishment is against the law and teachers cannot hit learners.

Schools should not view the investigations as witch hunts set on punishing the staff. The recommendations from a SAHRC investigation can improve the educational environment at a school. A perfect example is the implementation of an anti-racism policy at the Dr Viljoen High School in Bloemfontein following the recommendations made by a SAHRC investigation. The investigations from the SAHRC into corporal punishment in the Northern Cape can assist schools and teachers with finding constructive alternatives to corporal punishment.

The lack of response from schools can also speak to the lack of connectivity in the province. According to the 2015/16 Norms and Standards Report, there are 126 schools in the province without fax facilities and 86 schools without e-mail facilities. The Norms and Standards Regulations state that each school must have telephone, fax and internet facilities. Yet 27% of the schools surveyed did not have fax facilities and 17% did not have e-mail facilities.

It can be very difficult to ensure proper communication with schools when the basics are not in place.

We are concerned that the provincial department of Education does not always set the best example in responding promptly to the chapter 9 institutions. We are aware of one complaint lodged with the Public Protector in the province about the appointment of a school principal.

The investigation was supposed to have been completed two months ago, but the department has delayed responding to the Public Protector.

The Democratic Alliance supports the work done by the SAHRC. We urge all organs of state to work with the SAHRC, especially when it is to the benefit of our children.