A real solution must be found

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SOCIAL development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi was this week visiting schools in the Lady Frere area with a long list of offences on the discussion list.Among these, the department indicated, were drug and substance abuse, ill-discipline among pupils, intimate relationships between pupils and teachers, a lack of parenting skills and involvement in school work, crime and teenage pregnancies.

These are issues found throughout South African schools and which will not be resolved by a visit, but it is hoped that the interaction will result in some more answers to address the many ills facing our youth.

A simple starting point may well be giving schools more power to deal with ill-discipline. Over the past few years, stories have abounded of pupils behaving badly, including indulging in alcohol and abusing drugs. Some may well be repeat offenders, but schools are discouraged from expelling such pupils.

While everyone is entitled to a second chance, the reality is that a lack of consequences for actions will result in ill-discipline. That is a no-brainer.

Schools, with the involvement of the department, should be able to exert the necessary discipline. It’s a life lesson for every child and it is possible that if young people learn this early on, a lot of problems later in life can be avoided.

The issue of teachers engaging in sexual relations with children has also been part of the education landscape for years and, once again, it should result in consequences. Ban such teachers from the profession and list them on the sexual offenders register if the child is a minor.

Parental involvement in children’s lives is something which can be encouraged but it may not always happen. A Big Brothers Big Sisters of America system (www.bbbs.org) which enables young people to benefit from the involvement of a responsible and committed role model in their lives, could assist in filling the void.

Social issues will continue and there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution. But there are ways of doing it better and helping to prepare young people for life.

We owe it to the future to be part of the solution.

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