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Bid to ban school protests

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Protests at schools in the Northern Cape could soon be a thing of the past, with new legislation aimed at banning protests outside schools and institutions of learning and care on the cards.

NO MORE: Protests at schools in the Northern Cape could soon be a thing of the past. Seen in this file picture are parents from Reakantswe Intermediate School in Windsorton protesting outside the school. Picture: Danie van der Lith

PROTESTS at schools in the Northern Cape could soon be a thing of the past, with new legislation aimed at banning protests outside schools and institutions of learning and care on the cards.

This comes hot on the heels of the Essential Services Committee conducting an investigation on whether educators and support staff in basic education be declared an essential service.

On Friday, Parliament published a notice inviting the public to make written submissions until July 19 on a bill that prohibits public gatherings near schools and other institutions for minor children.

The private member’s bill, to be introduced by the Freedom Front Plus’ Anton Alberts, was sparked by protests at Overvaal High School in Gauteng earlier this year.

The Northern Cape has also had its fair share of protests outside schools, notably at the Reakantswe Intermediate School in Windsorton earlier this year, when pupils set fire to tyres in the schoolyard out of frustration at a lack of textbooks and teachers, and late last year at Letshego Primary School in Galeshewe, when the school’s entrance was blockaded by pupils and parents protesting against high failure rates at the school.

Alberts said that the objective of the bill is to “prohibit any protests near schools and other places where minors are present”.

South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) general secretary, Mugwena Maluleke, said the Freedom Front Plus was within its right to introduce the bill like any political party.

“The problem is that it is informed by racial intention to keep (Afrikaans-medium) schools lily white and stop South Africa from achieving transformation. That is the weakness of political parties protecting white privilege,” Maluleke added.

“We will be able to make our written submissions at the right time, but we are opposed to anything that is informed by racial intention.”

At the centre of the bill is ensuring persons exercised their right to assemble peacefully and with due regard to the rights of others.

“The bill seeks to amend the (Regulation of Gathering) Act to prohibit protests outside schools as well other institutions of learning and care, such as children’s homes and houses of safety, where there are minor children, in order to give effect, amongst others, to the rights enshrined in section 28(2) of the constitution,” Alberts said.

Alberts said the laws that would have to be amended include, amongst others, the National Schools Act and the Regulation of Gatherings Act.

“As things stand at present, the rights of peace-loving citizens, and in particular pupils, are being disregarded as their safety is jeopardised by the nature of protest actions.

“The FF Plus’ proposed private member’s bill is, therefore, of the utmost importance as it will serve to protect children against disruption, particularly in schools, and it will also augment their fundamental rights as enshrined in the constitution,” he said.

The bill comes as the Essential Services Committee (ESC) is scheduled to hold public hearings on educators staff being declared essential service in major cities in July.

Maluleke also said he was aware that ESC was working on protecting children at pre-schools and crèches.