Want to bunk class? Pay E50
NTJANINI – The practice of taking money from pupils who commit certain offences while in school is becoming contagious in the Shise-lweni region.
At Ntjanini High School cash is taken from pupils into administrative coffers whenever they are caught conversing in the vernacular or are dressed in a fashion that is not consonant with the school rules.
"Yes, speaking siSwati within the school premises during learning hours can cause irreparable harm to one’s pockets," said Mphumelelo Msibi*
"If one wants to avoid school authorities taking money from them, it is advisable to conduct your conversations in English, as per the school rules."
The pupil said they were made to pay amounts ranging from E1 to E2 for the said offences.
Another impeccable source also confirmed the practice. "I have seen it happen a couple of times in the staffroom but I am not in a position to state how it exactly evolved. "Surely, the pupils do pay for their misdemeanours here."
School principal Sam Dlamini confirmed that the school having taken that route as another punitive measure meted on the pupils, though concurring with a view shared by Pat Muir, Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Education and Training on the purpose of punishment on pupils.
He said punishment was meant to be a corrective measure on straying pupils and its effect was solely meant to have an impact on the wayward chid.
When the PS was initially contacted on the monetary punitive measures employed at schools, he wondered: "How then do we intend to discipline the pupils if we charge money, which they would ultimately ask for from their parents again?"
Dlamini said they used the system as a fund-raiser and the collected fees came in handy when needed.
When pressed on the largest amount ever obtained from the pupils collectively, he said his memory failed him on that part. "However I think it is worth noting that recently, we bought a consignment of shirts which we eventually distributed among needy pupils," he said.
Ntjanini High School authorities are not the only ones who have found a money spinner in pupils with delinquent tendencies, as an alternative punitive measure to corporal punishment.
This newspaper once ran a story about Nhletjeni High School, also in the Shiselweni region, where the principal Mlimi Mamba spoke highly of the initiative, saying through the proceeds; the school kitchen was now in a position to afford pupils dishes that were previously not on offer in their menu.
According to pupils en-rolled at the school, the administration continues to charge them financially as a punitive measure whenever they are caught in the wrong.
This is despite that the Ministry of Education, through PS Muir, warned against such practice. The Principal Secretary said he viewed such to be tantamount to punishing the parents who ultimately foot the bill.
According to a document sourced at the school at the time of reporting, pupils were charged according to the offences committed. Each offence carried its own monetary value. For instance, E5 was charged for late coming, while failure to wear a proper school uniform invited a penalty of E2.
The document further stated that absconding pupils were charged E50.
This monetary punitive measure, as meted on the pupils, outraged parents who complained that they were the ones made to suffer for the sins committed by their offsprings. "This is quite strange, we pay school fees; and then we have to further pay for children’s misdemeanours at school?" wondered a parent.
Moreover, parents said the initiative could have serious repercussions for their children, especially girls with whom such had the potential of promoting promiscuous behaviour; in that they may fall into the temptation of visiting employed boyfriends who would in turn pay up for their absence from school.
There were also complaints about cash mysteriously disappearing from many households in the advent of the ‘pay for your sins’ innovation, something which parents said paralysed their pay pockets. It was reported that at some point, a pupil disappeared from home in fear of punishment by parents after he realised that they had got wind that he had helped himself to a considerable amount of cash in order to finance his misdemeanours at school.
Muir also had misgivings about the system of imposing monetary fines on pupils.
He said there were laid down procedures for corporal punishment administration and the ministry had not, as yet, deliberated upon an alternative system. "Even if we were to look into the matter, I doubt that charging money would be the option," he said.
*Name deliberately changed to protect pupil.
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