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AfriForum to assist schools with legal advice on COVD-19 school brigades

AfriForum is still concerned over the ongoing plan by the Gauteng Department of Education, in which the department plans to deploy unemployed youths – between the ages of 18 and 35 – to schools in Gauteng. According to a media conference today, the brigades will have several duties at schools, which include the daily scanning of learners and teachers, as well as the one-sided monitoring of what they deem to be safe and necessary.

The specific role and powers of the brigades still haven’t been clearly specified. “It would have been more sensible if the department had contacted schools and given them the choice of making use of the brigades. Many schools have active parent and community involvement and this role can be filled from within the community,” says Henk Maree, spokesperson for AfriForum.

The time between the first advertisement and the deployment of the brigades on Monday amounts to only ten days. If even well-trained army and police officers have been acting outside their jurisdiction, to what degree would youth brigades be sufficiently prepared to be able to stay within their powers, considering they only received a few days of training? This is especially worrying in vulnerable settings such as school communities.

The data that brigade members have to collect at every school is also cause for concern when one takes into account the privacy of the school and parents. “One needs to question the extent to which a person’s private information will stay private.”

The military undertone that is created by the term “brigade” is also worrying, especially since no parent will want to place his child in a militaristic environment where brigades were trained in a hurry and in many cases will be only a few years older than learners. It is also unclear who will have the final say in cases where a staff member and youth brigade member disagrees on something.

“School communities should have the right to choose whether they want to make use of this initiative. Where schools don’t want to give the brigades access to their grounds, personnel and learners, their decision has to be respected. If that isn’t the case, AfriForum will support school governing bodies with legal advice.”

“Most schools already have comprehensive plans in place to open on Monday and are ready to do everything according to the rules. Plans have already been communicated to parents and learners. Therefore many schools have no need for the brigades,” Maree concluded.

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