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Media Release

5 September, 2007

WCED and schools take active steps towards a Safe Learning Home for All

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) plans to install CCTV cameras at 60 schools in 15 vulnerable communities during October and November this year.

The project forms part of a package of measures to improve school safety in the 15 communities most affected by crime, violence, drug abuse and gangsterism in the province.

Our approach is guided by an integrated strategy on school safety formulated by a WCED safety summit late last year, and an integrated plan by the Social Cluster of provincial government departments, including Education, Health and Social Development.

Premier Ebrahim Rasool announced in his Budget Speech earlier this year that every provincial department would engage in special projects this year in the 15 most vulnerable communities in the Western Cape.

These communities are located in Mitchell's Plain, Khayelitsha, Manenberg, Hanover Park, Nyanga, Elsies River, Bishop Lavis, Delft, Kleinvlei, Gugulethu, Philippi, Muizenberg, Vredenburg, Paarl and Oudtshoorn.

The project includes a programme called Schools as Nodes of Care (SNOC) where 70 staff from various departments are working with NGOs to provide a range of social services.

These include addressing cases of dire poverty among children, trauma counseling, providing access to basic services such as grants and birth certificates, and career guidance.

The WCED has identified 109 schools in these areas that are most affected by vandalism, burglary and gangsterism. The Safe Schools Division of the WCED is working with the schools, NGOs and government departments on different levels to secure the schools and to address social issues in these communities.

Safe Schools completed a needs assessment at 65 schools in the 15 targeted communities earlier this year and is now implementing a range of measures to assist schools in improving safety. These include extending burglar alarm systems to all classrooms in 60% of the 109 targeted schools and installing CCTV cameras at 60 schools.

The needs assessment of the remaining schools in currently underway, with a view to completing special interventions by the end of the 2007/08 financial year.

While we acknowledge that cameras alone is a not a sustainable solution, we are convinced that this is necessary as part of a province-wide strategy, addressing the many social pathologies in our society, and the causes of crime, violence and vandalism.

One of the ways in which we are using the curriculum as part of the broader strategy, is to establish more schools of skills. Experience has taught us that many of the learners who struggle academically, tend to be those with low esteem and are more likely to drop out and get involved in crime.

Safe Schools is working with the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the Department of Community Safety (DOCS) to improve access control at schools. As a result, 50% of the 109 schools now enforce access control policies. We are working the remaining schools to ensure that they implement similar policies.

The DOCS has deployed 500 Bambanani volunteers at the 109 schools. The SAPS is deploying 149 police reservists at most of the schools, and police constables at schools in Manenberg and Mitchell's Plain.

We welcome every step we make towards ensuring the safety of our children. To guarantee safe schools, we have to create safe communities.

To do so, everyone must be involved. These include learners, parents, teachers, principals, schools governors, officials, partners in the public and private sectors, and in civil society.

The good news is that many schools, organisations and partners are already making a huge difference, and we are very grateful for their efforts.

Prime examples include the Proudly Manenberg campaign, where all sectors of the Manenberg community are pulling together to make a difference. Proudly Manenberg is providing an excellent example of best practice.

Our schools are showing tremendous courage and initiative in the way they are tackling social issues affecting their schools.

A good example is Mr Leon Beukes, principal of Sonderend Primary School in Manenberg, who has spoken to gangs and has asked them not to recruit members at his school. Sonderend has taken the initiative to engage directly with the local community to obtain their support, while also ensuring the physical security of the school.

The programme of the provincial government to support our 15 most vulnerable communities will go a long way towards building safe communities where this support is needed the most.

We are complementing our approach to ensuring the physical environment of our schools by also focusing on the social environment.

The WCED is working actively with partners on all levels to mobilise role players and service providers to reduce incidents of burglary and vandalism at schools.

We are holding ongoing meetings with safety clusters and structures in the 15 targeted communities and we are seeking to implement a project proposed by UNICEF called "Score a Goal for Kids".

We are working with schools and the police to develop and implement plans to ensure searches and seizes of weapons and drugs at 40 high risk schools.

Four WCED components are supporting the Department of Social Development in developing a coordinated approach to dealing with drugs among the youth. The WCED components are Safe Schools, Special Education Support Services and the directorates of Research and Curriculum Development.

We have to start at the beginning to prevent and deal with violence behaviour. Violent behaviour starts with name-calling and bullying.

The WCED has therefore established a partnership with Clemson University in the United States and the University of the Western Cape to develop an approach to dealing with bullying. The partnership has surveyed the incidence of bullying and we are developing an evidence-based, anti-bullying intervention, including training.

We have also trained 60 teachers from schools in the 15 selected areas in conflict resolution. The teachers are now training learners in conflict management as an alternative to violent behaviour.

Topics covered include anger management, power relations, effective communication, the conflict cycle and spectrum, responses to conflict, sources of conflict and key concepts in conflict resolution.

Other new projects include our "Youth in Control" programme. This has included youth leadership camps for 200 learners. The programme aims to reinforce positive attitudes, appropriate behaviour and commitment to education. The programme is guiding those who drop out of school to appropriate education structures.

I am also happy to announce that the Anglican Church has offered to make their facilities available in Bonteheuwel and Langa to the respective communities, for the purposes of supervising homework of learners after school.

Safe Schools has made a significant contribution to ensuring school safety and to building a culture of school safety since its inception eight years ago. However, we have to constantly review our activities to improve our services and to address new challenges.

For this reason, we will appoint a service provider by 15 September 2007 to review the work of Safe Schools and to recommend ways in which we can improve service delivery by the division further.

Schools are sacred places of learning. While we review Safe Schools, we have to note that everyone, in the education system and in broader society, must contribute to building safe, secure school environments.

For enquiries, contact Gert Witbooi:  082 550 3938, or gwitbooi@pgwc.gov.za.

Issued by:
Gert Witbooi
Media Liaison Officer
Office of the MEC for Education
Western Cape
Tel: 021 467 2523
Fax: 021 425 5689

Visit our website: http://wced.wcape.gov.za

The Western Cape - A Home for All
INtshona Koloni - iKhaya loMntu wonke
Die Wes-Kaap - 'n Tuiste vir Almal

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