Ministers Schäfer and Winde oversee Search and Seizure Operation at Woodlands HS
Lately there has been a flare up of gang violence throughout the Province.
Although the majority of incidents are off school premises and within the community affected, gang violence can spill over into schools when learners are directly involved.
We are therefore concerned for the safety of learners and educators when there are flare-ups in the community and the possibility of weapons being carried into schools.
Safe and secure learning environments are essential if we are to ensure that quality education is delivered. It is imperative that our schools remain weapon and drug free.
The reality is that some learners do come to school in possession of dangerous objects and illegal drugs, despite the fact that our Western Cape Provincial School Education Act clearly states that no person may bring these items onto the school premises at any time.
In 2017, according to our Safe Schools Directorate there were 177 instances where drugs were found on learners. In 2018, the number of instances increased to 194.
In 2017, 56 instances were reported where learners had weapons on them on school premises. In 2018, the number of instances increased to 78.
“This is of grave concern to me and it is for this reason that the WCED works with SAPS to conduct random search and seizure operations at schools across the province” said Schafer. “The possibility exists that learners in possession of dangerous objects or alcoholic liquor or illegal drugs on our school grounds, may cause serious psychological damage or physiological injury to others. This directly contributes to the challenges of providing an education of progressively better quality for all learners”, added Schafer.
This morning Ministers Debbie Schafer and Alan Winde visited Woodlands High School in Mitchells Plain to oversee a surprise 'search and seizure' operation by SAPS. These searches by SAPS form part of our broader campaign to improve safety in our schools.
The District requested that a search and seizure operation be conducted at the school. The school is located in an area rife with gangsterism and this sometimes spills over on to the school.
It is possible that learners who may be affiliated to gangs bring drugs and weapons onto school premises.
It is not uncommon for the WCED to call on SAPS or City Law Enforcement to conduct random search and seizure operations at schools as a security measure and to deter learners from bringing weapons and narcotics onto school premises.
We visited the school today in an attempt to send a strong message to learners that drugs and weapons are not acceptable at their school, or any other school for that matter.
In January 2011, the Western Cape Provincial School Education Act was passed which provided clearly defined powers to conduct search and seizure operations at schools.
The WCED released specific guidelines for random search and seizures at schools which set out processes and procedures by which random search and seizures should be carried out by principals or their delegates at school.
The guidelines state that any principal or his or her delegate may search any learner, or the property of any learner, for any dangerous object, alcoholic liquor or illegal drug, if the principal reasonably suspects the presence of a dangerous object, alcoholic liquor or an illegal drug on the school premises or during a school activity.
The guidelines set out and explain various scenarios as to when and how a search can and should take place. For instance, where there is a suspicion that learners have dangerous objects or illegal substances in their school bags or lockers, the random search will be directed at the learners' school bags and lockers only and may not be extended to their bodies. However, where there is a suspicion that learners are carrying dangerous objects, alcohol, or illegal drugs in their pockets or elsewhere in their clothing, only their clothing and pockets may be searched, and not their property (such as school bags and lockers).
Many of our school principals are unsure as how to proceed once a weapon, or illegal substance in found. Therefore, the guidelines also clearly indicate the process once the object or substance has been seized. The object or substance must then be recorded in the school record book and handed over to a member of the South African Police Services.
“We’ve seen a spate of violence in Mitchells Plain, with reports of 25 murders in the area in February alone. Operations such as this should not be happening at any of our schools. It is tragic and maddening that innocent learners and educators are being exposed to such dangers, with weapons being brought on to school premises by those affiliated to gangs. We have to go to great lengths to ensure that schools are protected from violence. Our education facilities ought to be respected, safe spaces where children can thrive, grow in knowledge, and where the leaders of tomorrow can be developed”, said Winde.
“I believe that these guidelines help assist our principals and educators in carrying out such random search and seizures. By carrying out these practical steps as contained in the document, we are also ensuring that the learner’s rights are being protected at all times, as well as, keeping our schools safe”, said Schafer.
We hope to conduct more of these over the next couple of months as we believe that these search and seizure operations act as a strong deterrent to learners who intend bring weapons and/ or drugs onto school premises.
I was particularly pleased with how the local SAPS is working with the school to try and keep it safe.