The Safer Schools programme is not just relevant to the local school community but also to society as a whole.
In recent times we have experienced a rise in incidents of violence in our schools. Reports indicate incidents of bullying, intimidation, fist fights, knife fights, theft, shootings, inter personal violence and rape in our schools.
Reports of learners being assaulted, stabbed or even murdered for something as simple as a cellphone have been reported in the media.
Most of the violent crime in this country is committed by youths between 18 – 26. We are churning them out of our schools year after year. An effort to stem this tide has been, to date, an utter failure. This report endorses this view and I quote (from p. 246 general findings):
“There is no active participation by the Department of Education in the administration of the safer schools programme.”
What a damning indictment of the Department that should bear full responsibility for implementing a safer schools programme. Safety and liaison only has a facilitation role.
It is not the line department with direct authority over schools.
A police report on the assessment of schools within 29 police stations in the Eastern Cape, highlights the following crimes which are prevalent.
Sodomy, gangsterism, assault, substance abuse, murder, rape, theft, alcohol abuse.
It should be noted that the causes of school violence and criminality within the schools of these 29 police stations reflects, amongst others, the following :
• Broken family homes
• Negative role models
• Lack of recreational facilities
• No career guidance
• Lack of security
• Physical and emotional abuse of learners
• Teenage pregnancy
We thus cannot view the problem of safer schools as simply a security problem. It is something that the Departments of Safety and Liaison, Education, Social Development and public works need all to be involved in.
We must halt the trend in which our schools are becoming targets for criminals and criminal activity.
Solutions must be found and dealt with in an integrated manner. Therefore simply focussing on the physical safety of learner alone will not deal with the problem. We also need to focus on improving the moral re-generation of our society.
We have a responsibility to create the overall environment in which a real culture of learning and development can flourish. Education is the foundation of opportunity in life. A good education helps you to get ahead and recognise your dreams. Given the current state of education including the whole issue of safety at school, your pathway for the majority of our learners in this Province is one of shattered dreams. We need to turn this around.
The Democratic Alliance has a number of positive suggestions that should be taken into account to improve safety at our schools :
1. The DA believes that multi disciplinary teams consisting of social workers, psychologists and health workers need to be accessible to all schools so that children who experience deviant tendencies can be referred to expert advice for help.
In a recent visit to Canada to look at the problems of crime in British Columbia we were told that any child that shows any violent tendencies at school is immediately referred to such a multi disciplinary team for help. We all know that the causes of violence in learners are there for a host of reasons and it needs experts to assist.
We need social workers to visit our schools and we need to ensure that health workers visit our schools. For example, there are many children who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). If this is diagnosed then a problem child can be assisted. I know that social workers are attending to schools in the Western Cape.
2. Adopt a cop and community youth forums. We believe that each school should have an adopt-a-cop strategy and that police stations should form community youth forums. This has also been done in Canada to encourage young people to be involved in recreational activities. An adopt a cop strategy will allow the police to become more fully acquainted with problems in specific schools. Also by allowing community police forums to operate from schools, will encourage their involvement in schools.
3. Infrastructural improvements. It goes without saying that schools need to be adequately fenced. Buildings need to be properly maintained. In one school that I visited nearby – Ulwazi High School, in Mdantsane – part of the school building’s roof had massive holes in it and it had been like that for ten years! Those members of this house who wish to see this disgraceful state of this school, can click into the DA’s Bhisho webpage at www.dabhisho.org.za
What sort of environment is created for learning when hundreds of bags of rubbish lie piled up outside schools? For example Walmer Lower Primary and Walmer High in Walmer Township in Port Elizabeth – for over a year.
We would also suggest that in problem areas there needs to be high mast lighting so that schools are well lit. It goes without saying that caretakers need to be appointed. In areas where it can be done, alarm systems need to be put into schools. Schools in poor communities cannot afford these alarms and they need to be funded by the Department of Education. The costs to schools of tens of thousands of rands each year from vandalism, far outweighs the cost of putting in an alarm system.
4. Drug Testing and metal detectors. Metal detectors and drug testing equipment needs to be available to schools who need it. The Democratic Alliance also believes that we need to re-instate the specialised unit – the narcotics bureau to combat the rising drug abuse problem.
5. Code of Conduct for discipline in Schools – as many schools do not have a code of conduct for discipline, this is something that needs to be introduced in conjunction with all stakeholders.
I would like to conclude with the words of the deputy minister for safety and security, Susan Shabangu at the budget vote speech of the ministry of safety and security to the national assembly on the 22nd May 2010 in Cape Town :
“To protect our children we must introduce the primacy in our homes of moral judgment and the promotion of social values that must re-build our dysfunctional families that expose children to violence and crime through domestic violence, child abuse and other forms of assault on the spiritual base of the children.”
To create this kind of climate, community leaders and leaders in Government and society need to be role models and they need to lead by example.