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Law students offer pupils rare service

By Loyiso Sidimba | 2017-05-09 11:17:28.0

An enterprising second-year University of the Western Cape (UWC) law student has started an initiative to help his peers get practical experience by representing pupils in school disciplinary hearings.

Yolisa Nocanda is the chairman of the Chamber of Legal Students, which he started about two months ago with seven of his peers.

The 22-year-old from Langa, Cape Town, boldly states the chamber is the "most innovative initiative to come out of a law faculty in the country" during an interview with Sowetan.

Nocanda said every law faculty in the country should have a similar programme to help train students who would otherwise depend on moot court competitions to familiarise themselves with court processes.

"We are working on a model to grow the chamber. We're going to bulk it up," he said.

Nocanda added that his dream was to have UWC and University of Cape Town law students assisting pupils facing disciplinary action in the schools around the Mother City while their counterparts in the universities of Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand did the same in the country's economic hub.

According to Nocanda, the chamber, that now has 80 law students, came into existence after he discovered that in terms of the Schools Act, pupils facing disciplinary action were entitled to representation although the statute does not specify its nature.

The young law students have not looked back and have also not lost a case.

Nocanda and his colleagues recently represented a male pupil facing six charges at Bosmansdam High School in Cape Town.

However, he was reserved on the nature of the charges apart from indicating that they received a distressed call for assistance from the pupil.

Nocanda said another reason for the initiative was that most of the law students involved had experience of school disciplinary hearings.

"I love what I do, I think more law students should join us.

"I put law students in the real arena," he said.

Nocanda also appealed to the Department of Basic Education to outsource the function of presiding over disciplinary hearings to law students and for law firms to assist them.

The chamber is currently raising funds from its members' pockets to set up its own website.

He strongly feels school governing bodies do not follow proper procedures, hence the chamber's early success.

"We mediate a solution to the best interest of the school and, obviously, our clients," Nocanda explained.

He added that they had been dealing with a broad range of cases - from vandalism to bullying.

Finance and management students are assisting with the running of the chamber to free budding lawyers to focus on tackling cases.

Interested law students can e-mail recruitment@chambers.org.za while pupils and parents requiring assistance can use representation@chambers.org.za