South Africa: Schoolchildren, Know Your Rights

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opinion

Injustices against schoolchildren are sometimes the result of schools not having adequate capacity and staff not being trained in fair processes. But sometimes there is a blatant disregard for the law.

School disciplinary processes and sanctions can have major effects on the lives and futures of children. There are detailed provisions in law on how disciplinary matters should be handled, yet unlawful practices and violation of children's rights are perpetuated daily.

The Equal Education Law Centre runs an advice clinic on education-related matters and, in the past six months alone, we have received at least 25 matters related to unlawful disciplinary processes.

In some cases, the injustices are because the schools do not have adequate capacity, or training in fair processes. In others, there is a blatant disregard for the law. Based on the experience of the EELC, there are also gaps in relevant laws that need to be addressed so as to fully protect learners' rights.

No due process

In one case this year, a Grade 9 pupil, Chuma*, was suspended for fighting at school. According to Chuma, he was attacked by a classmate during a class rotation and acted in self-defence. He was suspended pending a disciplinary hearing....

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