Angie slams parents
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has told Northern Cape parents that their children's sex lives are their business and they should stop expecting her department to solve their problems.
In a sharply worded lecture on parental rights and duties, Motshekga told parents at a National Council of Provinces meeting in De Aar that they could not "pass the buck" to her department when their children fell pregnant or became substance abusers.
The minister - who came under fire this year for the closure of schools in Northern Cape because of service-delivery protests, and for the Limpopo textbook scandal - laid the blame for pupils' behaviour firmly at the door of communities and parents.
"Teenage pregnancy is a problem imported to schools by homes and the community. [But] it's a department problem for us," she said.
"They don't make sex at schools; they make sex at homes.
"This is a problem, there's something wrong that it now becomes my problem.
"We don't provide beds; we provide pens and books," she said.
Motshekga said that, instead of bringing their concerns to the Department of Basic Education during parliamentary hearings, parents and teachers should have sorted out their problems with their school's governing body.
A Statistics SA study this year revealed that 160754 schoolgirls became pregnant between July 2008 and July 2010.
In response to a parliamentary question in May about the number of pregnancies, Motshekga said "school-based sexuality" was included in the life orientation curriculum and her department was compiling regulations on pupil pregnancies to help schools deal with the problem.
Motshekga's sharp rebuke yesterday was prompted by appeals from parents who want sex education at schools to be improved.
A mother from Colesberg said teenagers were being forced to leave school because of pregnancy and unsympathetic teachers.
Motshekga said that though she agreed that sex education was crucial at school, her department could not provide contraceptives to pupils without their parents' consent.
"We can't give your kids condoms and we can't go and give them prevention tablets without the permission of parents," she said.
But, at the opening of a school mobile clinic in Cullinan last month, President Jacob Zuma urged parents not to "shy away from talking about sex" and said contraceptives, including condoms, would be made available to pupils.
Some Northern Cape parents complained yesterday about alcohol abuse by teachers and pupils in schools across the province.
"The teachers are also drunk and there's corporal punishment where they use pipes and fists. The children are dropping out now," a parent said.
A teacher complained that her colleagues were often drunk and, even after having rehabilitation treatment, came to work at the school reeking of alcohol.
But Motshekga washed her hands of this problem, too, saying it had to be dealt with by school governing bodies, not by her department.
Northern Cape education MEC Grizelda Cjiekella asked why the department was blamed for violence in schools.
"We [the community] don't want to take responsibility. People allow their children to go to a tavern and when they get stabbed it's the Department of Education's problem. We must not pass the buck," said Cjiekella.
But COPE member of the Northern Cape provincial legislature Fezile Kies said he was appalled by the minister's comments, calling her "rude".
"As COPE, we would have expected the minister to emphasise the importance of life orientation and social skilling of the children in the care of the education system," he said.
Motshekga slammed the presence of teachers and of children in school uniform at the gathering yesterday.
"Teachers must be in class teaching ... That's why I asked the event organisers to say children are supposed to be at school, they are not supposed to be here. And that's something we are trying to say everywhere; we must protect teaching time.
"Between 8am and 3pm nothing must be happening besides learning and teaching."
Just because the National Council of Provinces was "in town" should not mean no schooling took place, said Motshekga.
Kies said there was no room for Motshekga's personal views regarding the presence of teachers at the meeting.