Co-operative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma clarified that schools or principals should not send children home if they arrived without a mask, but should instead seek alternative options to deal with the issue
COOPERATIVE Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has loosened regulations around how schools should deal with pupils who arrive without a cloth mask.
This follows after a Grade 7 schoolgirl was raped on her way home in KwaZulu-Natal after she had arrived at school without a mask.
The 12-year-old is now receiving counselling from the Department of Education’s psycho-social unit and a 17-year-old suspect was arrested and charged with rape.
In regulations published in the government gazette on Sunday night, Dlamini Zuma clarified that schools or principals should not send children home if they arrived without a mask, but should instead seek alternative options to deal with the issue.
The first option for schools was to provide the pupil with a mask/home-made item that could cover the mouth and the nose, and if there was no alternative schools should isolate the pupil and contact the parents or a guardian to speedily bring a mask from home for the pupil.
“Should a pupil arrive at school or early childhood development centre without a cloth face mask, home-made item or another appropriate item that covers the nose and mouth, the pupil may be provided with an appropriate item that covers the nose and mouth, if possible.
“If the school or ECD centre cannot provide such pupil with an appropriate item that covers the nose and mouth, such pupil must be isolated and his or her parent, guardian or caregiver must be contacted to, without delay, bring the pupil a cloth face mask, home-made item, or another appropriate item that covers the nose and mouth, to the school or early childhood development centre, or arrange for safe transport for the pupil back home,” Dlamini Zuma said.
The amendment to the regulations follows fierce criticism of the school and the Department of Education in KZN after they had announced that each pupil would receive two masks when schools reopened in June.
Some of the criticism also said the pupil should not have been allowed to walk home – about eight kilometres – to retrieve a mask. It was said that pupils walked in groups as it was not safe in the area.
Teacher union Naptosa criticised the government last week, saying the pupil who was raped paid the price for not wearing a mask.
“We repeatedly demanded that the Department of Education give direction to schools,” said Naptosa provincial chief executive Thirona Moodley last week.
“The Department of Education must put practical steps in place for principals to follow. This form of gender-based violence against our children must be strongly condemned and all must be done to bring the perpetrators to book,” she said.
Dlamini Zuma said Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu would issue directions on the “home-made” mask item, which could be used as a substitute to a mask.
The police confirmed they were investigating a case of rape and the suspect was due to appear in the Ixopo Magistrate’s Court.