’Primary purpose for schools is for academic reasons’

Bronagh Hammond, spokeswoman for the Western Cape Education Department

In response to “’Ancestral calling’ shines light on cultural diversity at schools” (“Plainsman, March 2).

No calling is identical and requires the professional support required for that particular calling.

The same applies to other religions. Pupils that require support need to seek professional support within that religion or spiritual sector– for example, an imam, rabbi, priest or spiritual healer. It certainly isn’t the responsibility of a school to give such support and advice – our teachers are not trained to do so.

The primary purpose for schools is for academic reasons.

Schools must, however, respect and acknowledge that all pupils have different belief systems.

Pupils do learn about different religions, cultures and traditions through the curriculum.

However, in terms of spiritual callings such as this, no school can intervene as they are not equipped to do so. The pupil needs to address this with their parents and their spiritual healer according to their family rituals.

If a pupil has Yingulo, for example, which means that the pupil is spiritually not well, then the pupil can be referred to the care of their parents which can seek the advice of their spiritual healer if they do not want to return to class. It is not uncommon for schools to call the parents of the pupil to be taken home until they are ready to return.

This is the advice we have given schools. They need to ensure that the pupil is taken care of in terms of their health and well-being (taken into the care of their parents), but also that of the other pupils. The spiritual journey of one individual should not impact upon the educational rights of other pupils.

Schools need to ensure that any religion or spiritual belief system does not disrupt the core business of the classroom, and that is teaching and learning. If they do, this needs to be treated on a case by case basis, taking into account the pupils’ wellbeing and that of the other pupils. If there is a disruption, the pupil should be removed and the parents called so that they can treat the pupil appropriately.

No school should discriminate against any pupil with regards to equity, diversity of religious beliefs, culture, tradition and customs. However, if there are changes to the school code of conduct in terms of their uniform policy, then the parents must discuss this with the school and an arrangement can be made if necessary.