Minister Grant Pays Surprise Visit to Monitor Late Arrival of Educators and Learners
This morning the Western Cape Minister for Education, Donald Grant, paid a surprise visit to Woodlands Secondary in Mitchell's Plain in order to monitor the late arrival of learners and educators.
Grant said that unannounced visits were an essential way of monitoring whether schools were ensuring that their teachers and learners were adhering to the principle of "time on task" and to establish what measures could be put in place to curb late attendance.
"We currently have an absentee rate of 8% to 10% for learners and educators in the Province on any given day," said Grant.
"This is unacceptable. If we want to ensure that all learners receive quality tuition, they need to be at school, on time, every day. We therefore intend reducing the absenteeism rate in our schools to 2%, in line with international norms, in the next few years."
At Woodlands, Grant questioned learners as to why they were late and discussed with the principal the methods he was using to curb late attendance.
"The principal has tried a number of different methods to improve "time on task" at the school," said Grant.
"Late coming has been an issue in the past, with up to 200 learners each day arriving late. However, after appealing to parents in a letter in January to improve punctuality, numbers have decreased by half. Although this is a marked improvement, up to 70-90 learners are still arriving late each day."
Grant said that the principal has taken measures to lock the gates after the first bell at eight o'clock.
"Many of our principals have adopted the "lock-out" method. They restrict learners from entering their classrooms as not to disturb fellow learners and only allow access at the end of the first period," he said.
"I believe that principals should have the freedom to impose systems necessary to protect the rights of those learners who are on time and want to receive quality education. However, no learner should be locked out of the school premises under any circumstances, as this places them at an unacceptable risk. Furthermore, if the particular approach adopted by a principal to deter late arrivals proves ineffective, another reasonable alternative must be explored, for example, giving learners detention for the equivalent time that they were late for school, either during break or after school hours."
Grant also stated that if teachers or educators were serial latecomers, principals had to take strict disciplinary action and, if necessary, refer the matter to the relevant education district office.
"Ultimately, the responsibility of attendance and punctuality should not just rest on the principal's shoulders. Parents have a major role to play in ensuring that their children are afforded a full day's teaching time."
According to the South African Schools Act, every parent must ensure that every learner for whom he or she is responsible to attend a school from the first school day of the year in which such learner reaches the age of seven years until the last school day of the year in which such learner reaches the age of fifteen years or the ninth grade, whichever occurs first.
"If parents want their child to succeed they need to be clear that skipping school will have a negative effect on his or her education. Children who miss school frequently fall behind in their work and do less well in the examinations," said Grant.
"Parents can help prevent their children from skipping school by taking an interest in their education and encouraging them to take part in school activities, discussing any problems that they might have at school, and by having a communicable relationship with their teachers. If they find that their children are consistently late for school, they should teach them to wake up on their own, prepare for unexpected delays in traffic, or ensure that they are placed on safe and reliable transport wherever possible, and finally, teach them the importance of "time on task" and "punctuality".
Grant said that schools also needed to ensure that their learners were kept within the school grounds during school hours.
"Letting learners roam the streets during lunch break is not acceptable. Not only is it unsafe, but it also acts as a temptation to skip further classes," said Grant.
"The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) is utilising every resource at its disposal to crack down on absenteeism. This includes monitoring attendance more frequently through its CEMIS system and ensuring that learners who have frequently missed school are investigated by learner support officers."
Grant has urged parents and community members to report truant learners to their nearest education district offices. The contact numbers can be found on the WCED website.
"In order to maximise the quality of education received, teachers and learners need to have their 3Ps in order. They must be Present, Punctual and Prepared - every school day."
Minister of Education, Donald Grant
Cell: 072 724 1422
Tel: 021 467 2377