Six youth who were not attending school have been enrolled at schools last month after Waseela Fataar, a Bo-Kaap resident, brought their plight to the attention of various government departments.
Ms Fataar informed the Atlantic Sun about the children, aged seven to 19, some of whom reside in the kraal, an informal village in Bo-Kaap.
According to the South African Schools Act of 1996, all pupils between the ages of seven and 15 are required to attend school. A statement from Bronagh Hammond, the Western Cape Education Department’s Director of Communication, said parents or guardians should guarantee that children of school-going age are registered and attend school regularly.
“The WCED would prefer parents to follow the online application process, however, in circumstances where neglect has reportedly taken place, then the parent can approach the WCED Head Office or district offices for assistance. An assessment of the learner may be required if they have not attended school for a few years. We recently placed 6 learners in Tafelsig that were not attending school due to alleged neglect. District staff were alerted to the children and assisted with their placement,” said Ms Hammond.
The principals of Prestwich Street Primary School, Mahdi Samodien, and Schotsche Kloof Primary School, Faadil Kamish, both concur that accepting children at this time of year is difficult for both the teacher and the learner.
“The learner now has to catch up after missing out on nearly half a year. It is a massive challenge not just for the child, but the teacher as well who has over 20, sometimes more than 30 kids in a classroom,” Mr Kamish said.
“Not only is the child behind for this year but the child may have learning difficulties. I’ll give you an example, we have a child in Grade 4 that’s supposed to be in Grade6, she has not done any work for two years so it’s very challenging for the school. We have accepted this child because there is a need to educate this child but on the other hand there are impediments like learning difficulties and discipline and then the academic standard drops,” Mr Samodien said.
According to Zola Pahlana, a circuit manager at Metro Central Education District, some of the children’s parents lacked the proper papers to enrol their children, but his department was able to assist them despite this impediment.
“We had to establish whether the children were ready for school but there were two seven-year-olds who are of the age to start to school. Then we arranged directly with the principals of St Paul’s, Prestwich and Schotsche Kloof and they all responded positively. In a recent meeting a principal informed me that one of the kids is absent from school and now he has to get in contact with the parents about this matter,” said Mr Pahlana.
He went on to say that Ms Fataar was persistent in getting the children into school, contacting several social welfare departments on a regular basis.
According to Esther Lewis, the Department of Social Development’s Head of Communications, they engaged with WCED and are aware of the children who are not attending school. Erefaan Ramjam, a volunteer community worker who started the Nozomi Organisation to assist the youth, brought these issues to their attention.
“The challenges of children on the street in the Bo-Kaap area was discussed. From the discussion it was ascertained that there are several groups of children operating on the street, but that generally resided in homes with their families, but resort to begging on the street to generate an income,” said Ms Lewis.
“The Department is eager to assist and work with community structures who want to drive change and work toward the best interest of children and families. Mister Ramjam was requested to assist with profiling of the identified children on the street,” she said.
Mr Ramjam says he has delivered the information to DSD and that, in collaboration with the City of Cape Town’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development, they have arranged a life-skills and job-readiness programme from June 5 to 7.
“We will be taking 20 youths between the ages of 18 and 35 to the Maitland town hall for a three day workshop where they will gain valuable skills to prepare them for work opportunities. The City will provide transport to and from Bo-Kaap to the venue and lunch will be served. And after this course they will get a certificate as well. Everything is free and there’s a few spots left so we are looking forward to empowering these young men and women,” Mr Ramjam said.