n South African Journal of Education - Learners' right to freedom of written expression




Although the primary purpose of schools is to educate, it has long been understood that education consists of more than the development of academic skills and the accumulation of knowledge. One of the central purposes of schools in a democratic society is to encourage the critical and independent thinking necessary for effective participation as citizens. Schools have a further duty to teach respect for the rights of all members of society, as spelled out in the preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. An important aspect of education about the rights and duties that underpin citizenship is to learn both the use of, and the appropriate limits upon, freedom of expression essential to a functioning democracy. In this article we look at problems that may arise in connection with written expression by learners in schools, including the publishing of school newspapers and the distribution of unauthorized publications on school premises. It is argued that school authorities should act proactively and develop a prior approval policy for publications that could be construed as representing the viewpoint of the school. However, such procedures may not be overly broad nor overly restrictive. A clear policy should be developed about the disciplinary consequences, for learners as well as school staff, of expression within the school or in the context of school-sponsored activities which are disruptive of the educational mission of the school or violates the norms established by section 16(2) of the Constitution.


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