KNYSNA NEWS - Michael Smith of Sinethemba youth development centre describes schoolchildren bunking school as an accident waiting to happen.
Smith, who is a director at the centre, says the NGO is dedicated to keeping children off the streets by encouraging self-sufficiency and giving the youngsters hope for the future.
He said between April and July they worked with a total of 28 children ranging in age from 10 to 14 years old, who were suspended from school: "They attended our programmes and they all went back to school," Smith said.
He added that there are, however, youth who fall through the cracks, "because they were either not referred to us by the school or their parents don't know about Sinethemba".
Smith is appealing to schools to refer their pupils who are currently suspended to the centre to prevent them roaming the streets and ending up entangled in mischievous and criminal activities. "We are funded by the Department of Education and we are running programmes that purely exist to prevent these children ending up on the streets. These services are here for you to utilise. When these children are suspended, some of their parents are at work during the day leaving them unsupervised, which means they are bound to be bored. And because children are naturally curious they might be exposed to drugs and the more they stay out of school the more difficult it will be to get them back," said Smith.
He also reflected on the case of a 12-year-old who was found roaming the streets last week after having been suspended in April last year, and who has not been to school ever since because his single mother was unable to go and see the principal.
How can you help?
Smith is pleading with the Greater Knysna community to not be spectators but participate in keeping these children off the streets by encouraging their parents to take them to Sinethemba should they be suspended, or if residents spot children out in the streets during school hours, to contact him on 072 055 6917.
'We bring you the latest Knysna, Garden Route news'