The Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) has over the last six months noticed a growing trend of procedural discrepancies within school disciplinary processes in South Africa. The circumventing of, and discrepancies in, disciplinary procedures within schools poses a threat to children’s fair access to education and development, according to the EELC.
“We’ve seen how suspension is viewed as a default or automatic sanction, how expulsion is being effected by the school governing bodies or the school – whereas it’s supposed to be effected by the head of the department – and the failure to allow learners an opportunity to present their case,” said the Equal Education Law Centre’s Pila-sande Mkuzo.
“The major part of this is how governing bodies within disciplinary committees do not follow processes or give oversight on what the processes are meant to be…It’s either they’re not consulting their code of conduct or they are simply giving decisions that aren’t following process.”
Mkuzo explained that both private and public schools are, at times, sites of unfair disciplinary processes but assured parents and pupils that the EELC can become involved and assist in various ways.
“In instances where a learner is suspended, usually the school doesn’t allow them to continue with their educational programme – meaning that they miss out on tests, work being done in class and on assignments that need to be done and handed in. In the most drastic instances, a learner has been expelled and the learner is completely removed from the system at the school,” said Mkuzo.
“What should happen is: a written notice should be given to the parent [when disciplinary action is being taken against a pupil] which details out what the charge is and what the process will be. When you don’t receive a written notice with what the offence is, what the date of the disciplinary hearing is and what the process will be, the process is already flawed.”
Parents wishing to resolve issues of unfair disciplinary procedures at school without any support should expect resistance, according to the EELC.