School readiness is a contested and emotional term..
BASIC Education Minister Angie Motshekga says pregnancies among schoolgirls and teachers who go to class drunk are not her department's problems.
Speaking in De Aar in Northern Cape at the national council of provinces' "taking Parliament to the People" programme, Motshekga said parents could not "pass the buck" back to her department on the thorny issue of rising teenage pregnancies since kids were not having sex in schools.
"Teenage pregnancy is a problem imported to schools by homes and the community. [But] it's a department problem for us," Motshekga said.
"They don't have sex at schools, they have sex at homes. This is a problem, there's something wrong indeed that it now becomes my problem. We don't provide beds, we provide pens and books"
She said instead of bringing some of their concerns to the Department of Basic Education during parliamentary hearings on basic education, parents and teachers should have sorted out their own problems at school governing body level.
Motshekga's comments were prompted by earlier appeals by a number of parents who attended the session yesterday urging the department to improve sex education.
One mother from Colesberg said children were being forced to leave school because of teenage pregnancies and unsympathetic teachers.
Motshekga said while she agreed that sex education was crucial at school level, her department could not provide contraceptives to pupils without parental consent. "We can't give your kids condoms and we can't go and give them prevention tablets without the parents' permission," Motshekga said in response.
Some of the parents also complained about alcohol abuse among teachers and pupils in schools across the province. "The teachers are also drunk and there's corporal punishment where they use pipes and fists. The children are dropping out now," one parent said.
A teacher complained that her colleagues were drunk and that, even after rehabilitation, they still came to school reeking of alcohol.
But Motshekga washed her hands off this issue as well, saying it had to be addressed by school governing bodies and not the department. Motshekga's stance is different from Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi who wants condoms distributed at schools to prevent HIV/Aids infections and early pregnancies.
Northern Cape education MEC Grizelda Cjiekella wanted to know why the department was blamed for violence in schools. "We [the community] don't want to take responsibility."
"People allow their children to go to a tavern and when they get stabbed it becomes the department of education's problem. We must not pass the buck."