Events

EC learners receive Constitution on Human Rights month

By Nana Mzila

As part of the department’s initiatives to promote and celebrate Human Rights Month, Deputy Minister John Jeffery visited Thanduxolo High School in KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage and engaged with about 150 learners on human rights issues. He also handed out copies of the basic provisions of the Constitution to the learners.

The information session, which took place on 18 March 2015, was part of the build up to the national Human Rights Day celebration scheduled for 21 March. The session provided learners a platform to engage with the deputy minister about issues concerning their rights.

The engagement also served as an opportunity for the department to give each pupil in attendance a copy of the Constitution which is tailor-made for learners in order to understand the content easily.

In his key note address, Deputy Minister Jeffery highlighted the importance of the right to education. “As we celebrate this Constitution, we should remember the injustices and violation of human rights caused by the apartheid government which eventually led to the massacre where 61 people were killed on the 21 March 1960,” he reminded the learners.

Highlighting how the justice system has evolved and how courts now are fighting for human rights to rectify injustices of Apartheid, he said; “Pre 1994 was a period characterised by discrimination in the South Africa’s education system. There was a huge difference in the white versus black schools in terms of resources – there were divisions. But today, that has changed and you should be proud that you are part of the born-free generation and have equal rights to education regardless of race, colour or religion”.

Siphokazi Marangula, a Grade 11 learner from Solomon Mahlangu High School said she enjoyed the engagement with the deputy minister. “I really learnt a lot about my rights as a school pupil. I did not know some of the rights, I heard, for the very first time, that there is a right to dignity. I even have my own copy of the Constitution to constantly remind myself of these rights,” she shared.

Some of the issues raised by the pupils during the question and answer session were about the rights of pregnant pupils at schools, corporal punishment, bursaries and issues of learners with criminal records, especially when they are eligible to apply for employment.

Pupils were encouraged to speak out against any human rights violations to their teachers and other channels in the criminal justice system. Concerns were also raised about unemployment which affects pupils in the area, especially after completing matric.

One of the speakers was Senior Magistrate Johan Meyer, encouraged learners to find out more about their rights and also to take interest on how courts operate when handling trials. “We strive to have an open door approach in our daily operations. We encourage young people to come and inquire about their rights at our courts and to approach us if they need any assistance regarding their rights,” he appealed.

In conclusion, Thanduxolo High School Principal, Mr Andile Mbengashe, expressed gratitude to the department for taking time to educate pupils about the Constitution and for encouraging them to research about their rights.

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Published: 24 March 2015