Catholic school retracts expulsion of pupil who set off firecracker

The grade 11 pupil who was expelled from a Roman Catholic school in Soweto for lighting a firecracker has been reinstated, but with a punishment that will hang over his head for the rest of his time at the institution.

The punishment has angered the Congress of South African Students (Cosas), which slammed the school for its double standards and “for treating the pupil as inferior to his peers”.

Last week Sunday World reported that the 16-year-old pupil at St Matthews High School, an independent school in Rockville, Soweto, owned by the Catholic’s Sisters of Mercy, was expelled early last month after he pleaded guilty and apologised for his behaviour in June.

He lit a firecracker in the grounds behind the school and when caught out by deputy principal Tawanda Banderasi, he apologised. He also offered to apologise to the entire school for his behaviour. The school reviewed the pupil’s expulsion after our story and asked him to return to school on Wednesday.

In a letter, which we have seen, the school principal Eva Skosana said the pupil would be given a final written warning. “He is to be at the required best behaviour in line with the code. He has committed in his letter to the school, to apologise to the teachers and students. The principal will co-ordinate how this is carried out. He is to research and prepare a campaign informing other students of the dangers of acts such as the one he committed.

“He may prepare it during school holidays, to present it when school reopens for the fourth term. This will be his responsibility for the current year and subsequent year,” stated the letter.

Cosas has slammed the punishment as being too harsh, saying action was not taken against another pupil who lit a firecracker and wanted to assault the teacher that confronted him about his behaviour.

Lindokuhle Yende, Gauteng administrator for Cosas, said the priority should be on ensuring the pupil catches up with his schoolwork.

“He must not be put into many programmes. He must be in class, learn and catch up on his subjects.

“The code of conduct of the school must be reviewed and the student body must be given an opportunity to draft their own code of conduct for learners which will be in line with the South African Schools’ Act,” he said.

The Gauteng Department of Education confirmed that their officials intervened and met all stakeholders, with the intention of speedily resolving this matter.

“The learner was re-instated and provided with necessary psychosocial and academic support,” said the department’s spokesperson Steve Mabona.

“It must be noted that schools enforce their codes of conduct to deal with disciplinary matters and some schools implement the principles of restorative justice. Learners can present mitigating factors in any form, to support an envisaged outcome of a sanction. The incident where a learner lit a firecracker and wanted to assault a teacher at the school, was never reported to the Department,” he said.

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