Bill ignores some realities

Any initiative to prepare pupils to play a responsible role in our society deserves unreserved support from all.

The challenges facing the country's schools require not only government and parental intervention but also the commitment of pupils to live up to the expectations of the society.

Nurturing pupils at schools and students at colleges to appreciate their responsibilities in a country that embraces a human rights culture is a moral imperative that should lay a solid foundation for the generations of the future.

Hence the significance of the Bill of Responsibilities, which is to be part of a life skills curriculum at South African schools, colleges and universities. It was unveiled this week by Education Minister Naledi Pandor.

Launching the bill, Pandor said it had been largely drawn by the National Religious Leaders Forum.

The bill, which mirrors some of the tenets contained in the Bill of Rights, includes the responsibility of ensuring the right to equality, human dignity, family, parental care and education.

We fully support the sentiment behind the bill and believe it has been conceived with the best intentions for our democracy.

However, we believe the bill ignores the practical realities of the situation at both township and rural schools, where children still do not fully enjoy some of the privileges they might be required to proclaim they already have.

For example, the issues of unequal education, poverty, housing and joblessness still dog thousands of children in township, peri-urban and rural communities.

Thousands of children still walk long distances to school daily and sit through classes on empty stomachs. Needless to say, these children have already been stripped of their basic rights to equal education and to have schools within their neighbourhoods.

True, freedom comes with responsibilities and it is only appropriate that our children understand their role in a democracy.

But have we, as a society, created an environment in which our children can happily proclaim their responsibilities?