Safety in schools under the spotlight in Parliament

A working partnership to address crime and violence in schools was established in 2011 between the Ministry of Police and the Department of Basic Education called “The Protocol”. But most Members of the portfolio committee on basic Education were skeptical about whether the protocol is working or even if it is able to reduce crime at schools at all

It is the duty of all stakeholders – teachers, parents and all government departments – to make learning spaces for our children safe, says Hubert Mathanzima Mweli, Director General (DG) of Basic Education. He was speaking at the briefing on Safety and Security in Schools called by the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education.

A working partnership to address crime and violence in schools was established in 2011 between the Ministry of Police and the Department of Basic Education called “The Protocol”.

But most Members of the portfolio committee were skeptical about whether the protocol is working or even if it is able to reduce crime at schools at all.

Among the issues raised were corporal punishment, liquor outlets within 500m of learning institutions, the continued employment of a teacher at a school despite committing a crime against a learner, and how learners can report their cases anonymously.

“The issue of bullying in schools is a matter of concern. How can learners report [cases] directly to the Department of Education? ” asked Joyce Basson, an ANC Member of Parliament.

The DG advised that learners can use a toll free number – 0800 202 933.

“We are coming from a violent past and it is very difficult teaching an old dog new tricks,” said the DG in reply to a question about what form of discipline, if not corporal punishment, is appropriate for a learner who is a bully.

He referred to an alternative as a “positive behavioral intervention and support system.” This includes the use of appropriate language to learners by the teachers and establishing a positive relationship with learners, getting to know their interests at school and knowing their lives outside of school. According to the DG, the intervention is friendly and in the long-term would see a learner changing attitude.

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Liquor outlets as a factor contributing to unsafe learning spaces

According to the police, 15,087 illegal liquor outlets were closed in the last financial year and a further 5,520 were closed between April and September 2017.

Ian Ollis, a DA Member of Parliament, said, “It is disturbing to note that a teacher commits a crime but the school decides to keep the teacher, or the teacher is fired but the next day is employed in another province.”

The Department of Education is looking at the ways of stopping a teacher who has committed a crime in one province from being being employed in another.

Throughout the country there are reported incidents of unrest by students charging that they are being subjected to corporal punishment. In 2015, GroundUp reported on the protest by Iqhayiya Secondary School learners in Khayelitsha against the corporal punished they charged was used as a disciplinary measure at the school.

Elsewhere, the affect of gang violence on learning has been highlighted. Elitsha reported on gangsterism that flared in Orange Farm schools resulting in a learner being stabbed in the face on the school premises and another being forced to smear his face with human faeces because he belonged to an opposing faction.

The DG promised to work closely and tirelessly with all stakeholders to reduce crime levels in schools to zero.

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About Bernard Chiguvare 27 Articles
Originally from Zimbabwe and since 2014 I been contributing to different publications in South Africa. My area of focus as a reporter is on the rights of vulnerable communities and foreign nationals in any country.