Education campaigners in South Africa have criticised a school for suspending two pupils after their marriage proposal on the school grounds, reports the Sowetan Live.

The 18-year-old boy proposed to his 16-year-old girlfriend last month at Tholulwazi Secondary School in Gauteng province.

The girl’s mother told the Sowetan Live news site that the school forced the children to call off their engagement, adding:

The engagement ring is still at the school because we are waiting for the final outcome from the Department of Education. They went back to school on Thursday, they were happy and so was I.”

The Sowetan Live quotes a spokesperson for the National Association of School Governing Bodies, Matakanye Matakanya, as saying the school was right to take action:

School is a place of teaching and learning only. If this incident is allowed, then we will be sending the wrong message to all other students.”

But others have disagreed, defending the pupils. Speaking on behalf of the Congress of South African Students (Cosas), its president John Macheke said:

No school has a right to suspend learners or call off their engagement. It is the student’s right and a personal matter.”

South African Home Affairs spokesman Thabo Mokgola has pointed out that the couple can legally marry, provided the 16-year-old receives parental consent.

The couple are still together in a relationship, the Sowetan Live quotes the girl’s grandmother as saying.

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