Minister Grant: Transversal Counter-Truancy Operation a Success
Media Statement by Minister of Education, Donald Grant
This morning, I visited the Athlone area to take part in a school counter-truancy operation.
The operation was a collaborative transversal event between the Western Cape Government, SAPS, the City of Cape Town and various community organisations.
The objective of the operation was to address the issue of truancy and absenteeism in the Athlone area.
The operation was based at the Bridgetown Community Hall in Athlone. Learners who were still roaming the streets after 08:30 were transported to the community hall by SAPS and WCED officials, where representatives from the WCED were waiting to process and record their names and details.
Once their details had been recorded, they were then transported to their relevant school.
Counsellors, social workers and health practitioners were also stationed at the community hall to assist with learners needing support or counselling.
Many of these learners live and have been brought up in very difficult circumstances and need extra support.
In total, 55 learners ranging from Grade R to Grade 12 were picked up on the streets today and brought to the Community Hall. Each learner's name, address and school were captured. The WCED will now conduct follow-ups on each of these learners to monitor their school attendance, as well as inform their parents and ask for their support.
Twenty schools in the Athlone area also took part in the operation by assisting the WCED and SAPS with names and addresses of learners that were repeatedly truant and were absent today.
With this information, SAPS and education officials were able to then conduct home visits to these homes to either address the learners or the parents themselves.
This morning, I visited the operations centre at the community hall and was very impressed with the systematic structure of the operation.
Major-General Roberts from SAPS was running the operation and I would like to thank him, his team and all roleplayers sincerely for a job well done.
I then proceeded with education officials to the local shopping mall to see if we could find any truant learners ourselves. I was pleased to see that there were no learners present. The mall security then told me that they chase learners in school uniform away during school time. I informed them that instead of chasing learners away, they should instead contact the WCED's district office and report truant learners. In that way, we can record their names and assist and support them in any way we can.
On my way to a house visit, we drove past three female learners walking on the side of the road at around 10:50. We stopped our cars and I addressed them personally. The three learners were reluctant to speak to me, and even gave me the wrong name of their school. They were then taken to the community centre where their names and "real" details were recorded.
We then proceeded to Kewtown to conduct a home visit in respect of a male learner in Grade 8 who was repeatedly absent from his school. The learner was not at home at the time, but I was given the opportunity to speak to his mother who was unaware that he was not in school. She then told me that she knew her son was struggling with reading and repeatedly wanted to stay at home.
We will be following up on this specific case to support the learner concerned.
Today's operation was not only a fruitful and successful exercise, but a learning experience for me.
Truancy is not just about bunking school. There are many reasons why a child will be repeatedly absent from school.
Socio-economic circumstances certainly play a role, as well as gangsterism and drugs. But we too must consider the self-confidence of learners struggling to perform in school and their battle to keep up with their classmates.
Learners who have not been taught the basics of reading, calculating and writing will certainly find it difficult in the years ahead. That is why the WCED needs to ensure that each young learner has the opportunity to learn those basics and have the skills and self-confidence to move forward in their school career.
It disheartens me that some learners chose not to attend school. This would understandably ultimately compromise their future. It also poses a huge safety risk when they are left unattended during the day.
That is why today's operation was such a success. We let learners of the Athlone community know that we are not here to judge them. We are here to assist and support them in any way that we can to ensure that they get the education they need to improve their life chances.
I want to thank everyone who took part in this operation. It was a real example of what can be achieved if we work better together.
But the operation does not stop here. We will continue to monitor the learners that we processed this morning, giving them the support and encouragement they need to attend school every day - on time and prepared for the day ahead.