Expel kids for carrying knives? That reason doesn’t cut it, it seems
Pupils shocked to find they were not allowed back to school this week, and principal has some explaining to do
A Mthatha school principal will have some explaining to do to the Eastern Cape education department after turning away pupils who came to school with dangerous weapons last year.
Principal T Mtla of Sinolwazi Senior Secondary School outside Mthatha suspended 16 pupils in September last year for three weeks after they came to school with dangerous weapons. They allegedly attacked pupils from a neighbouring school. They returned to school in late September and successfully completed their exams.
The boys, who were expected to start Grade 12 on Wednesday, at the time admitted they were wrong and apologised to the school and police.
The boys further pledged to change their behaviour and to focus on their studies, but they were shocked to learn on Wednesday that they had been expelled.
But Mtla is adamant he did not expel the pupils. “But I sent them reports saying they are not welcome back at the school this year. I just sent them no-return letters,” Mtla said.
One of the boys said the problem started when a group from another school allegedly robbed and attacked a boy from Sinolwazi.
“In retaliation, we took imela nentonga [knives and sticks] and attacked learners from Ngayibanjwa. All we wanted was for them to return our friend’s money and cellphone,” another boy said.
Police were called and pupils from both schools were arrested and later released into the care of their parents.
Mthatha police Warrant Officer Thobeka Qina confirmed the pupils from both schools were arrested, but not charged, and released to their parents’ care.
“We called their parents and later arranged meetings with both groups and educated them about the dangers of forming groups. We further held reconciliatory gatherings which were attended by pupils from both schools,” Qina said.
Local traditional authority board member and school governing body member Vuyokazi Lwaca accused Mtla of running the school as his personal property.
“We as the traditional authority and SGB are not aware that these learners have been expelled. All we know is these children were punished last year when they were suspended. They served their suspension and were allowed to write their Grade 11 exams. You cannot punish learners twice for the same offence,” Lwaca said.
Mileka Lutshutu, one of the parents, said her child was now sitting at home doing nothing. “I’m afraid that he is going to be involved in all sorts of mischief.”
She claimed Mtla called a parents’ meeting once in September to discuss the list of items pupils would need for Grade 12.
“He never discussed the conduct of the learners with us,” she said.
Eastern Cape education spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani confirmed Mtla had been asked to explain to the department why he expelled the boys without following proper procedures.
“He [Mtla] acknowledged to the department that he flouted departmental procedures and he never reported the incident to the district office. He has been instructed to take all those learners back and report to the district office before the end of the week,” Pulumani said.
Pulumani said only the head of department had delegated authority to expel pupils.
According to the South African School Act, the SGB must notify the pupil as well as the parents of the pupil, in writing, that disciplinary proceedings will be instituted against the pupil. The act states the SGB must preside over the disciplinary proceedings or appoint a disciplinary committee to do so. “Pending a decision by the HOD the governing body may suspend or extend the suspension of a learner for a period not longer than 14 days,” according to the act.
Lutshutu said she never received any correspondence from the school. “When my son was suspended for three weeks, he was never called to a disciplinary meeting,” she concluded.