EDITORIAL | School sanctions must be appropriate

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School discipline is always a tricky business – and when it comes to huge numbers and a difficult, haphazard neighbourhood environment, regulations need to be tailor-made.
This is especially true when it comes to a school with more than 1,000 pupils in Port Elizabeth’s northern areas where there are all manner of sinister outside elements which young people, their parents and teachers have to deal with.
There will be those who will criticise Bethelsdorp Comprehensive High principal Ralph Jacobus for what they perceive as his heavy-handed approach to lock out latecomers because of the disruption they cause to their classmates’ learning routine.
But he seems to have little choice given he has tried other means of discipline with no positive effect.
From the children’s point of view, they argue they often have legitimate reasons for not being on time – from late public transport to having to help a younger sibling get to school first.
However, you can be sure there are – as there have been since the very first classroom – slackers who are habitually tardy.
It stands to reason principals do not have free licence to tackle ill discipline in any way they see fit. They are guided by what the department of education prescribes.
But even Bhisho says Jacobus is within his rights to take such drastic action, albeit for a limited amount of time and in consultation with the school governing body.
You cannot deny a child’s right to education, but at the same time there have to be rules in place.
It may help immensely if parents were more involved in the engagements between Jacobus and the school governing body for a better understanding of what may be behind “serial” latecomers.
It shouldn’t be too difficult to establish between those with valid excuses and the loafers.
A centre of learning must be run with minimal disruption to the education of the vast majority who abide by the regulations.
We must just be sure that any sanction is appropriate and takes into account individual circumstances...

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