On Tuesday, 2012/11/13, I witnessed King Edward VII Preparatory School (KEPS) teachers sitting at the coffee shop while the older children were left babysitting the little ones. These older children could not have been older than 13 year old who were left watching the 6 year olds. We saw a group of boys trying to climb over the wall to get into the polar bear enclosure, they stopped when they saw us coming up the path.
These children were left to their own devices at the Johannesburg Zoo without adult supervision. Not once did we see a group of boys in the company of a teacher or an adult, with the exception of arriving and departing.
As a parent I would be horrified if my 5/6 year old child was left without adult supervision during a field trip. 13 year olds are not responsible or mature enough to take on that kind of responsibility.
KEPS is a very prestigious school here in Johannesburg and seeing things like this reinforces our decision to homeschool our children.
Here is the response I received from Audrey Gray from KEPS:
Dear Mrs ******
Thank you for your concern regarding our pupils trip to the zoo.
Herewith, a brief explanation regarding our Grade 7 / Grade R “Big Brother” program:
During the course of the year, our Grade 7’s have the opportunity to build relationships with our Grade R’s, thus making them feel like an integral part of or school, as well as having a “Big Brother” to turn to for help, if and when needed. These activities include activities such as picnics, paired reading, and informal sporting activities. This program culminates in the boys’ final outing to the zoo, where the Grade 7’s are responsible for the Grade R’s tour around the zoo.
We do understand that this is a lot of responsibility for our Grade 7 boys, but the process is carefully monitored throughout the year to ensure that the boys are up to the task.
This program has been in place since the inception of our Grade R class, approximately 20 years. In all these years, we have never had any problems or complaints, however, the isolated polar bear incident will be dealt with immediately. This incident will be brought to the staff who accompanied the boys, thus ensuring more pro-active management of this outing in the future.
Thank you, once again, for bringing this to our attention.
Though I applaud their “Big Brother” program, I am still appalled that these children were left without adult supervision.