Children’s Bill: Joint presentation by Departments on the Interdepartmental Steering Committee

Social Development

20 January 2005
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Meeting report

050121pcsocdev

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
21 January 2005
CHILDREN’S BILL: JOINT PRESENTATION BY DEPARTMENTS ON THE INTERDEPARTMENTAL STEERING COMMITTEE

Chairperson:
Mrs T.J Tshivhase (ANC)

Relevant documents:
Children’s Bill and related legislation: Implications for State Departments and other institution: Volume 1

SUMMARY
The Committee received answers to issues that were raised in an intersectoral workshop which took place in Johannesburg in December 2004. Mothers with children were accommodated in single cells. Prisoners took part in various education prisoners. There was a need for campaigns to encourage the use of contraceptives so as to reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. Public Schools were not allowed to withhold a learner’s academic results for non-payment of school fees.

MINUTES
Ms R van Zyl (South Africa Law Reform Commission: Researcher) continued presenting the Departments ‘ response to issues that had come up during an intersectoral workshop in Johannesburg in December 2004 (see document attached).

Discussion
Ms J Chalmers (ANC) felt that it necessary to investigate if the education programmes were being properly implemented in prisons. She asked what curriculum was followed in prisons and if awaiting trialists took part in the programmes.

Mr J Cloete (Department of Correctional Services, Director: Formal Education) replied that the Department of Correctional Services provided reading material to prisoners awaiting trials. The Department of Education was responsible for their education. The Department of Correctional Services also accommodated such prisoners in its life skill programmes. The education of sentenced prisoners in the Eastern Cape province was not taking place smoothly due to lack of resources. Prison learning centres followed the curriculum prescribed by the National Department of Education. A number of prisoners also registered for higher education. It was the responsibility of each learner to pay for his or her higher studies.

Mr D Dkgwacwi (ANC) said that there were many children mothers who were living in prisons with their imprisoned mothers. The prison environment was not good for children because they could easily learn bad things in there. Some of the children had relatives who could look after them. He asked if each mother was accommodated in a single cell with her child only. He also said that there were no school feeding programmes at high schools. He asked how the Departments would ensure that the feeding schemes were extended to high schools.

Mr F Engelbrecht (Department of Correctional Services, Deputy Commissioner: Personal Wellbeing) replied that, like awaiting trial prisoners, children were not supposed to be found in prisons. He agreed that prison environment was not good for children. Some of the children were born prisoners whilst others did not have relatives to look after them. In some cases they came from broken families or suffered abuse at the hands of relatives and it was therefore not desirable to leave them in such conditions. In some prisons a mother and her child were accommodated in a single cell. There were also communal cells were children would meet and play together during the day.

With regard to the extension of the feeding schemes to high schools Mr S Nawa (Department of Education, Deputy Director: Legal Services) replied that the Department of Education inherited the feeding scheme from the Department of Health. The Department of Heath could best explain why the scheme did not cover high schools.

Mr Dkgwacwi said that it would be acceptable to have uniform standards in all prisons. Mr Engelbrecht agreed that the Mother and Infant Policy should apply to the whole of South Africa.

Ms S Rajbally (MF) asked which schools had feeding schemes and if there was any way of monitoring if feeding was taking place. She was concerned that there were schools still withholding learners’ academic results because of unpaid fees.

Mr Nawa replied that schools were divided into five different categories and provinces did the categorisation. The feeding scheme applied to schools from communities that were regarded as the poorest of the poor. With regard to the payment of school fees, he said that people should distinguish between public and private school. Parents who sent their children to private schools were obliged, in terms of the contract between them and the school, to pay the prescribed fees. The Department of Education could not intervene if results were withheld because it was not party to the contract. However, public schools were not allowed to withhold academic results of a learner for non-payment of school fees. Any educator who withheld academic results of a learner for non-payment of fees was committing misconduct. He urged people to report schools that still withheld academic results.

Mr M Waters (DA) asked if the feeding of school children continued even during the school holidays. He was concerned that the Children’s Bill did not outlaw harmful social and cultural practices. Children might be intimidated or pressurised into consenting to such practices. He noted that the Department of Health was responsible for determining who got HIV/AIDS treatment. He was of the opinion that all children should get HIV/AIDS treatment.

Mr Nawa replied that feeding did not take place during holidays because there were no learners and educators at school during the holidays.

The Chairperson was concerned about the high teenage pregnancy and HIV/AIDS rate. She wondered how teenagers could be encouraged to use contraceptives. There was a need for massive campaigns to encourage the use of contraceptives. She asked if the Department of Education distributed condoms at schools.

Mr Nawa replied that children were taught life skills under the new curriculum. There was a slow reduction of teenage pregnancy. The high rate of teenage pregnancy could be explained by the fact that in previous years pregnant learners were expelled from school after it became clear that they were pregnant. This is no longer the case. The Department distributed condoms in schools.

The meeting was adjourned.

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