Reinforce Education Act 2010

Reinforce Education Act 2010

The pronouncement by the coalition government to stop all international travel is music to most of our ears. The happiness comes with high hopes that our MPs will indeed be physically present at the second reforms plenary.
I am also waiting with bated breath for the presence of the MPs in the august House when it resumes its sitting on Thursday. I believe it is time that our MPs get down to the real business which is mainly to promulgate new laws and to amend or repeal outdated ones.

With regard to amendments I would like to humbly ask the MPs to prioritise the Education Act, No 3 of 2010. I am aware that this law is undergoing some reviews as I write.
My interest in this particular law is very biased, I must admit. This is because as a teacher, I feel that this law has left out so many important aspects that could improve the dissemination and attainment of quality education in Lesotho.

This is not my attempt to undermine the suggested amendments on the Education Act 2010, but it is my effort to point out other areas that need to be looked into.
The issue I would very much like to see being included explicitly in the Act is in relation to the safety and security of students in schools. Situations that can affect the safety and security of learners in schools include but are not limited to violence, HIV/AIDS, drugs, negligence and sexual misconduct.

With regard to violence, schools in Lesotho are slowly becoming rowdy. In fact they are low-conflict zones with violence always looming large. A few weeks ago, reports were doing the rounds on both print and audio media on violence at one school. Boys from the local village were involved in some violence. This situation even led to the calling of a parents meeting to try and solve the problem.

However, what remains a problem is that our Education Act has no provisions on how to deal with school violence, an oversight that leaves school learners vulnerable and their security uncertain on the school premises.

Another form of violence perpetrated against learners in schools is corporal punishment. The Act does not denounce the use of corporal punishment in schools. Instead the Act, in a very shallow and too general way, in Section 4(4) stipulates that “a learner shall not be subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”

This provision is not enough to guarantee the safety of learners. It needs to be very specific on what is meant by degrading and inhuman treatment of punishment.
It should be noted that it is not only learners that experience or that can experience violence in schools. Teachers are also prone to violence.

Unfortunately teachers seem to be forgotten members of the schools as the law is silent when it comes to their rights. The law is also silent on how teachers can be protected from violence they suffer at the hands of their learners. Even neighbouring South Africa which has relatively comprehensive education laws has failed on several occasions to protect teachers against the violence of learners.

Another area of consent is that of drug abuse. Our schools have become drug hubs where learners engage in the use of dangerous drugs such as marijuana. An attempt to find laws and policies on drug use have yielded little results. As such I will not dwell much on this one lest such a policy or piece of law is present and I misinterpret it. But what is important is that schools need to be professionally assisted in dealing with drug and alcohol abuse.

Lastly, I would like to look at the much dreaded HIV/AIDS as a component that can lead to lack of safety in schools. The Ministry of Education and Training developed the Lesotho Education Sector HIV and AIDS Policy in 2012. Like all good policies the government develops, this policy is also decorating the shelves and cupboards at the Ministry and has not been disseminated to the relevant consumers for which it was developed.

It is officially documented that the majority of people that live with the HIV/AIDS pandemic are between the ages of 15 and 49. Some of these people are of school-going age. In fact the 15-year-olds are doing their Junior Certificate. How do we ensure their safety and security in schools when we are not implementing policies that could make their lives easier?
The points raised in this article point that there is indeed need for the Education Act 2010 to be amended.

This should be done in line with the spirit of the mission of the Ministry of Education and Training which is to “enhance the system that will deliver relevant and inclusive quality education to all Basotho effectively, efficiently and equitably.”
This mission can be easily achieved when we have levelled the playing field through developing and implementing appropriate laws and policies.

Kelello Rakolobe

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