School uniform blues at Glendale High

Pupils stand at the school gate, having been locked out for not wearing their proper uniform.

Parents are upset with Glendale High School in Rocklands which is refusing pupils who have contravened the school’s uniform policy, entry to the school.

These pupils have altered their school pants, fashioning them into skinny pants. The group of more than 10 pupils have been sitting outside the gates for more than a week.

Community worker and parent, Washiela Harris from Rocklands, was furious and concerned about the safety of the children, saying there were thieves roaming the streets around the school.

“Rocklands is not the safest area, crime occurs daily. The gangsters target the youngsters, and sadly the pupils cannot defend themselves.”

On Thursday May 18 when the Plainsman visited the school around 10am, there were a group of pupils sitting on the pavement outside the school gates.

At the time Grade 11 pupil Lyle Baartman, 16, had been refused entry to the school for five days.

“I really want to be in class learning. The teachers only started checking our uniforms until recently – about a week ago. We were told about our pants, but I am unable to have it replaced due to finances,” he said.

Lyle’s guardian Audrey Vaughan said she went to the school to find out what the problem was with her two children. Her son, Ashlin, a Grade 11 pupil, was also not allowed into the school because of the style of his pants, which, however, was not altered.

“I first called the education department and then they told me to go to the school. I then went to school and was told that skinny pants is not part of the uniform. I explained that Ashlin was not wearing a skinny pants and that the pants is fitted that way. With Lyle I understood their reasoning, but then I said that I won’t be able to purchase a new pants immediately,” she said.

Ms Vaughan said they were allowed to return to class but then the very next day Lyle was put out again because of the pants. “This made me very upset because I have been to the school about the issue,” she said.

Another pupil, Riyaad Isaacs, 17, said he was in the same situation and is worried that he was falling behind with his school work. “We are early at school, hoping we can enter and learn but then we are reprimanded at the gate and have to stay outside.

“It might not seem like it, but we are worried about our school work as exams are around the corner. Without work and class time we are unable to pass the exams and move on to the next grade,” he said.

Ms Harris said she has a daughter and a grandchild at the school and cannot stand to see the pupils outside the gate, not getting an education. “They shouldn’t be put outside for days, without having access to education, it is their right. I am standing up for them because these kids are not in gangs nor are they on drugs and they want to be educated. And, I surely hope that my children are not victimised by the school because of this issue,” she said.

In a meeting with the Plainsman and teachers of the school, principal Achmat Chotia said pupils have been warned about the uniforms and have been sent home to change.

“There are pupils outside for various reasons; some of them have been suspended because of smoking dagga, for threatening teachers and also for vandalism.

“Regarding the pants, we have warned them about dressing appropriately during assemblies and even in the classroom. Some of them have the proper trousers in their bags and then change when reprimanded. Others have been given letters to inform their parents about the uniform. What the pupils are doing is undermining the discipline of the school,” he said.

The teachers said failing to dress in the school’s proper uniform had been an issue for a while, but pupils were not complying. They said one day the pants would be a skinny fit, pupils would be reprimanded, then cut adjust them so they are a regular fit, but then the next day they would alter them into a skinny again.

Millicent Merton, spokesperson for the Western Cape Education Department, said in terms of the South African Schools Act, school governing bodies determined codes of conduct, which may include the school uniform and general appearance.

She said the SGBs represent all sections of the school community and those who disagree with the code of conduct could take the matter up with the SGB. “In adopting a code of conduct for learners, the governing body must act within its powers and in the best interests of the school and all the learners.

“Pupils are obliged to comply with the school’s code of conduct, in terms of the South African Schools Act. Pupils should, however, not be locked out of the school premises given the potential risks to learners outside the school grounds. “We advise schools to incorporate sanctions for uniform infringements into the school’s code of conduct, to ensure a common understanding and support for these measures,” she said.

Riyaadh Najaar, the chairperson of the Progressive Principals’ Association (PPA) and Spine Road High School principal, said schools had a code of conduct which had to be adhered to.

“I believe the learners were given an opportunity to bring their parents but they failed to do so. According to the school the learners also vandalised the school’s fence and it has been reported to the police. Schools have limited leverage to get offending learners to abide with the agreed code of conduct. If sending the learners home is the most expedient and it works for the school then it needs to be supported,” he said.