KAROO NEWS - The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has taken a firm stance about the practice among learners to not attend school up to the very last day of the school term.
In a press release, head of the WCED Brian Schreuder said, "...learners MUST attend school and teaching MUST happen until the last day of the term." He said learners that are not writing exams should still be attending school and they should be required to submit valid reasons for non-attendance.
In the press release Schreuder takes issue with parents who, according to him, are too lenient, saying they should insist that learners attend school till the very last day.
"Schools are, by law, required to monitor non-attendance of learners right up until break-up day, as well as provide for teaching and learning during the remaining period."
But teachers say it is not that simple to undo a culture that has become the norm. George Herald spoke to a few local teachers who were willing to talk about the issue anonymously.
In the last weeks of school, they say, teachers are kept very busy compiling and marking exam papers and don't have time to 'babysit' the learners. At least one school, however, has asked the parents to help them work towards this goal. A teacher at this high school said the school has study sessions in place, especially for those learners who do not study at home.
"It keeps them busy and it does not put us in a position where we have to 'babysit' them. Our school has already sent out letters to the parents asking their involvement and joint responsibility with regards to this."
Another teacher says the presence of learners makes those last days a headache for the teachers who have to mark, hand in marks and prepare evaluation reports. "It will be hard to break this culture because there are no real repercussions."
One teacher suggested that, to address this problem, schools could schedule exams for subjects that take longer to mark earlier.
Another suggestion was that schools work together on subjects they have in common. "They [different schools] can write certain subjects on the same day, and even let each school prepare a question [towards the exam paper]. It will take the pressure off one teacher."
Bronagh Hammond, a spokesperson for the WCED, said the district directors have asked that schools inform parents that their child is to attend school up until the last day of term.
"Procedures in terms of recording absenteeism should continue as per normal." Hammond said not only are learners losing valuable lesson time, as many schools continue with effective delivery of the curriculum, but also staying at home unsupervised during this period, as many learners are doing, is a safety risk.
"Most parents schedule holidays during the school holidays and are therefore at work."
She says the SA Schools Act is very clear on the parents' responsibility to send their child to school, and the school calendar is also very clear on the term dates.
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