Safe communities hold the key to safer schools

Friday, October 12, 2018

Schools are a microcosm of society and to achieve safety in schools South African, communities need to be safer.

This is the message emanating from the School Safety Summit, which took place at Saint Georges Hotel in Centurion, Gauteng, on Friday.

The summit brought together the Basic Education Department, South African Police Service (SAPS), the Social Development Department, school governing body organisations, labour unions and learner representatives.

First convened in 2015 by the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT), the 2018 summit comes against the backdrop of the social ills that have plagued the school community in recent weeks.

In September, a learner stabbed a 24-year-old teacher to death in the North West. The teacher, Gadimang Daniel Mokolobate, had only began his teaching at the school in April this year.

In another incident in Gauteng, a learner pointed a gun at a teacher.

Following a meeting held by the Council of Education Minister (CEM), the council took a decision to convene a safety summit to address the spate of violent attacks and child abductions taking place inside and outside the school grounds.

Addressing stakeholders at the summit, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said collaboration is the key to address the scourge of violence.

“It is through combined efforts by parents, communities and government authorities that we can achieve safe schools.

“We need communities and parents we need to teach our children and drive the point home that life is a precious commodity. Solutions to the crime within our societies lies within us. We need to teach ourselves and our children the values that focus on respect for self, others and environment,” said Motshekga.

Reflecting on violence, Institute of Security Studies Researcher Chandre Gould said violence has a devastating impact on society and communities.

According to Gould, the effect of addressing violence through crime prevention efforts and health facilities knocks a dent of R238 billion a year in the national fiscus. A whopping R8 billion more than the national education budget of R230 billion.

While the financial impact was highlighted, Gould said the human cost of violence delves deeper as carries on from one generation to the next.

“It affects the productivity of business, it affects government service delivery because if you have a serious fight at home with your partner, your mind is not on your job and you are not able to bring your best. It is the same with children,” she said.

Measures to address school safety

In search of solutions, Gould recommended that social programmes address the root causes of violence such as patriarchy and poor social norms must be given urgent attention.

Through social programmes, that empower parents, communities and teachers, Gould argues that the country will be a step closer to ensuring safe schools.

Concluding her address, Gould called on the Minister and government to find ways to end violence.

“We need Cabinet to prioritise ending violence in our country. Unions we need you to be part of this solution to overcome to help build children that are more respectful to teachers. NGOs, researchers - we need you to share your knowledge. It is time to make South Africa safer,” said Gould.

Delegates also discussed measures that can be taken to address school safety and security.

Labour union Professional Educators Union representative Peter Boase suggested measures such as installing cameras in classrooms, teaching self-defence skills and creating awareness around violence. –