Cape Times, 30 June 2008

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Xenophobia resource packs have been distributed to schools in the Western Cape, in what the provincial education department hopes will help establish an understanding of the plight of refugees among pupils. Education MEC Cameron Dugmore said on Sunday the department's curriculum directorate had developed the resource packs, which included lesson plans and leaflets. The additional information is to be included as part of Life Orientation, which already contains a section on discrimination. It is meant to encourage both tolerance and a sense of understanding among pupils. "The packs include resource materials and raises the issue of discrimination," Dugmore said. "It places the refugee situation in a historical context, explaining the reasons behind what it means to be an economic or political refugee," he added. "The lesson plans accompany that. From the day the conflict began, circulars were also sent to schools to address the issue of xenophobia in their assemblies and to invite speakers to schools." He said schools had responded positively to the call, and primary and high schools had been issued with the packs. Meanwhile, earlier this month the department said it was battling to provide a stable learning environment for the hundreds of displaced refugee pupils because of the fluctuating situation. Some 138 children of school-going age had been located, but with escalating violence, volunteer teachers could not always visit some of the sites. Teachers had previously been working on a rotational basis at Silverstream and His People Church in Goodwood. There were also some children at the camps in Youngsfield and Soetwater. "The situation is very fluid and the situation in the places of safety changes daily," Dugmore said. "We have had four options in terms of deploying teachers to places to safety, facilitating the attendance of learners at their former schools, trying to facilitate access to a school close to a place of safety, and an option that we have not looked at yet is that we could also plan and organise extra classes. "Considering all the challenges we have been faced with, we have been trying to focus on early childhood development, where we have been trying to assist pre-Grade 1 learners. "In terms of matrics, all our districts have been asked to identify matric pupils in the area, but have not been able to give accurate data as yet. "We are trying under difficult circumstances and will make an assessment once reintegration is complete," he said. Dugmore said the department would continue to monitor the situation. He could not yet say whether additional classes would be arranged. The provincial government has set July 23 as the deadline for the final reintegration of the thousands of people displaced by the xenophobic attacks.