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Media Release

Wednesday, 29 May, 2002

Gaum calls for Task Team to address gang violence

Statement by André Gaum, Western Cape Education Minister

It is clear that gang violence in certain parts of the Cape Flats over the past two weeks has made it impossible for us to provide effective education in these areas, and that we must find solutions to this problem.

I have therefore asked the Western Cape Premier to consult with the President, with a view to appointing a high-level Task Team involving all three tiers of government to develop strategies to protect education from gangsterism, crime and violence in the province, particularly on the Cape Flats.

The areas worst affected by gang violence over the past two weeks include Lavender Hill, where stray bullets from a gang fight penetrated the front door of a flat in Selkirk Court and killed one of our learners, Martinique Africa, of Hillwood Primary.

I offer my deep condolences to his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Africa family as they struggle to come to terms with Martinique’s senseless death.

I also express my appreciation for the support given to the Africa family by the principal and staff of Hillwood Primary.

I will visit Hillwood Primary and Lavender Hill Secondary today (Monday, 27 May 2002), to familiarise myself personally with the impact that gang violence has had on education in the area over the past two weeks.

This has been a traumatic time for the staff and learners at Hillwood and Lavender Hill Secondary where gang violence has made it impossible to continue with normal schooling.

Many of our schools closed down to ensure learner and staff safety in the face of gang fighting in their areas.

I appreciate the efforts being made by all role players in these communities, including the WCED’s Safe Schools Programme, to respond appropriately to the latest round of gang fighting on the Cape Flats, particularly in Lavender Hill.

However, it is clear that we must tackle the issue of gangsterism on a higher political level, if we are to ensure longer-term solutions to this problem.

Education is simply not possible in the conditions we have been experiencing in Lavender Hill and elsewhere. Unless we can resolve the problem, we might as well close schools in the worst affected areas.

Options include deploying the army in bigger numbers in the worst affected areas, placing individual police officers in each classroom, as they have done in the United States, creating safe corridors to schools, and imposing curfews.

Improving the quality of education in disadvantaged areas is difficult enough without the impact of gangsterism. Gangsters are robbing our young children of the right to a decent education, and this cannot be tolerated.

The core activity of the Education Department is education. This education includes teaching core values needed for the development and upliftment of all our communities.

We are also involved in securing our school premises and in mobilising local community support for safe schools. However, we must work with other agencies if we are to tackle the broader issues, which militate against effective teaching and learning.

For this reason, I have asked the Western Cape Premier to consult with the President, with a view to appointing a high-level Task Team involving all three tiers of government to develop strategies to ensure that gangsterism, crime and violence do not affect education in our schools, particularly in our poorest communities.

We must break the back of gangsterism in our communities. We cannot afford to allow our school grounds to become battlegrounds for gangsters.

The Task Team would have to look at short, medium and long-term strategies to protect education from gangsterism. Short and medium term solutions would include activities of the police, the Defence Force and National Intelligence.

Long term solutions will include moral regeneration in our country. Education has a special role to play in this process, in conjunction with religious and other interest groups. The process would involve learners, their parents, and all communities.

Ultimately, local communities will play the most important role in protecting education in their areas, by taking ownership of their schools, and preventing gangsters from robbing children of their education and their futures. I therefore call on local communities not to be intimidated, and to join us in this quest to ensure effective education for all.

Our Safe Schools Division has been working closely with schools, the police, Community Safety, Multi-Sectorial Action Teams of the Cape Flats Renewal Strategy (MSATs), Neighbourhood Watches, Community Policing Forums, religious groupings, and the New World Foundation, to ensure appropriate responses to the violence.

Safe Schools’ activities include trauma debriefing, and I call on all those affected by the violence to take up the offer of trauma debriefing, to enable you to cope with these events.

Safe Schools and our Physical Resource Planning unit will continue to assist schools as they assess the infrastructure needed to ensure safe, secure school environments.

Safe Schools’ responsibility is to ensure the physical safety and security of our schools, while helping to mobilise community support for safe schools, and influencing learner behaviour.

Safe Schools has been liaising with the police to ensure high police visibility in the area. The police will continue with searches and seizures to counteract gang activity.

MSAT and the New World Foundation are discussing the way forward directly with gang members, while Community Safety is looking at long term visible policing in the affected areas.

Safe Schools has clear guidelines on how to respond to gang activities around schools, and is running a wide variety of programmes to raise awareness of these procedures, in conjunction with other role players.

Enquiries: André Gaum 082-550-3938

Issued by:
The Communications Directorate
Western Cape Education Department
Private Bag X9114
Cape Town 8000
Tel: (021) 467-2531
Fax: (021) 467-2363
Email: pattwell@pawc.wcape.gov.za
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