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Principals to face cane for school violence | EducationWeb

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Principals to face cane for school violence

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Principals at schools with high levels of violence where the number of incidents are not reduced could face serious sanctions, or be fired.

As part of increased safety measures at schools that Education MEC Cameron Dugmore says will take safety at schools to a “new level”, principals of violent and underperforming schools could be replaced, mentored or face incapacity hearings. 

Dugmore said on Sunday that after a damning report by the Human Rights Commission (HRC) on violence at schools and a review of the Safe Schools programme, an improved safety strategy would be presented to the provincial executive committee in little less than two months.

‘Antisocial behaviour needs to be nipped in the bud’

The Education Laws Amendment Act, gazetted in December, gives provincial departments the power to hold principals accountable for school performance - and this, says Dugmore, includes safety at schools.The HRC, which recently released its findings, held public hearings into safety at schools in 2006 and received thousands of submissions from across the country about the reality facing pupils and teachers, both in the classroom and on the playground.

According to the HRC, South African schools were the least safe places for children.

Quizzed about the increasing number of pupils who chose to deal with conflict in a violent and aggressive manner and how it could be addressed, Dugmore said that, in many ways, the implementation of safety measures came down to how schools were managed.

While the surrounding community also had a role to play, the way discipline was instituted at schools was crucial.

“It comes down to the… buy-in in terms of the school’s code of conduct. Antisocial behaviour needs to be nipped in the bud and the smallest incident of bullying needs to be addressed.

“But not enough is being done to empower parents. Sister departments need to be increasingly equipping parents to mediate those conflicts which are not based on violence, and helping them create positive role models.”

Dugmore said that when measuring performance at a school, improvement included school safety.

“It’s not just about one or two elements. We have introduced a school improvement plan where we measure schools on a scale of one to five. We are not only focusing on an academic plan, but on a safety plan. School safety is one part of effective management.”

In terms of sanctions against individual principals, Dugmore said a number of options were available.

“In many instances, principals can be replaced or we can put in mentorship principals who can work with those principals.

“Alternatively, we can institute an incapacity hearing against that principal.”

But while the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) welcomed a new safety initiative, provincial secretary Jonavon Rustin cautioned the department against victimising principals, who were “not responsible for the social environment of the school”. “We will monitor it closely, as it could be unfair labour practice if the WCED is only using safety at schools as a criteria for disciplining principals,” he said.

This would mean that principals in more affluent areas, who could afford hiring security companies, would have an unfair advantage in their performance assessment.

Dugmore said schools were clearly plagued by gangsterism, and the level of violence at some schools was “unacceptable”. He said the recent review of Safe Schools by an external company, as well as the HRC report findings, had “placed us in a position to review our strategy”.

A new strategy was to be presented to the provincial cabinet in early May, as violence was “impacting on the quality of learning and on pupils”. In terms of the Safe Schools programme, Dugmore said there were some weaknesses. “While it has been able to direct its energies at the high-risk schools in 21 areas, it has had a limited ability to focus on schools that were simply categorised as… schools at risk,” he said. This meant that Safe Schools focused mainly on the 60 high-risk schools identified in the province.

“Part of the review was also to consider the resources of Safe Schools. One of the issues facing the success of the programme is a resource issue when it comes to securing school premises, but we also have to acknowledge the real gains (it has made), such as implementing alarm systems.”

Dugmore said a particular concern was that schools were still only used during school hours and were not being utilised as a “community hub”, which could keep vandals at bay.

Finance and Tourism MEC Lynne Brown, in her recent
budget speech, also set money aside for the Community Safety department to ensure more Bambanani volunteers at schools.

Funds were also set aside for added workshops and
teacher-training. Dugmore also acknowledged the impact violence at schools had on teachers and the department’s ability to recruit new teachers to the profession.

Source: IOL

EducationWeb @ March 18, 2008

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