SA boosts school safety

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pretoria - Police and Basic Education officials are working hand-in-hand to devise crime prevention programmes to provide more protection for schools.

"The Ministry of Police is currently engaging the Ministry of Basic Education to cement a partnership that will drive the objectives, activities and priorities of both ministries to reduce crime and violence in schools and in communities," said the Police Ministry.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa today said in a Parliamentary reply that as part of its commitment to protect all citizens, including school children, the ministry would strive to strengthen relationships with school governing bodies, authorities and communities.

The ministry said it had noted various public calls around the issue of arresting children who were found loitering outside school yards during school hours. 

Shortly after schools re-opened, Mpumalanga Safety and Security MEC Vusi Shongwe reportedly called for children in school uniform found loitering and hanging around shebeens and bars during school hours to be arrested.

Pictures of three Gauteng learners publicly drinking alcohol while still in school uniform were also carried in newspapers earlier this year.

"Loitering is not a Schedule 1 offence and is regarded as a B crime. Loitering is dealt with in accordance with the respective municipal by-laws. The South African Police Service (SAPS) can also act in terms of the Children's Act and ensure that the child is referred to the social workers or probation officers of the Department of Social Development who must then investigate why the child is not in school," said Mthethwa.

He explained that the Child Justice Act created a separate criminal justice system for children in conflict with the law. 

"The act stipulates that if a child is younger than 10 years, he or she may not be arrested, and a child who is 10 years or older should only be arrested as a last resort and, if arrested, should only be detained for the shortest possible time," stated Mthethwa.

However, he warned that the provisions should not be interpreted or viewed as giving a free-for-all licence for unscrupulous adults to manipulate children into committing crime. 

"The Child Justice Act and the Children's Act regulate the manner in which children should be treated. For this reason, the SAPS has National Instructions in place that explicitly ... give direction to police members on how to treat and deal with children in accordance with the provisions of the mentioned legislation."

The ministry said it would be looking at all the applicable legislations relating to children's rights and safety. - BuaNews