When parents drop off their children at school or in the care of schools, they presume that the teachers will assume the responsibility of not only giving lessons about 1 + 1 = 2, but also of parenting for the duration of the school day.
This responsibility becomes even greater when schools go on tours and camps, and the parents (teachers) are expected to double up their efforts of responsibility to the pupils. No parent drops off their child in the care of a school with the expectation that they may be called and told that their son or daughter has died while in the school’s care.
Events of the past week or so since the reopening of schools have been disturbing. Enock Mpianzi from Parktown Boys’ High School drowned while on camp in Brits, North West. Grade 7 pupil Keamohetswe Shaun Seboko was found dead in the swimming pool of Laerskool Bekker in Magaliesburg, Gauteng. Two pupils at a school near Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal, stabbed each other this week. And, in Limpopo, two cousins were killed after a school wall fell on them shortly after a truck’s trailer crashed into it.
The devastation suffered by the families of these children cannot be underestimated. We accept that tragedies happen in life and that schools are not immune to such. But when there are indications of neglect, causing parents to doubt their children’s safety in the care of teachers, it is unacceptable.
In the case of Parktown Boys, the story surrounding Mpianzi’s death changed radically from when the country first heard of the incident last Thursday. It has since transpired that his parents were notified only the day after he had gone missing and that no roll call was taken when the teenagers were done with water activities at the Nyati lodge.
The apparent deception – in terms of continuous changes to what really happened and exact details of what the school’s immediate action was when alerted about Mpianzi having gone missing – has angered many parents countrywide, who are now asking: “What are schools’ responsibilities when it comes to the safety of children in their care?”
It is not an unfair question – safety is the one of the rights enshrined in the Constitution.
Schools cannot hide behind the indemnity forms that parents sign when children go on school camps. They must exercise their parental duties when children are left in their care.