Preventing learners from attending school is not the answer
The WCED has been alerted to a planned ‘shut down’ of Khayelitsha schools on Thursday and Friday this week by the Khayelitsha Education and Development Forum (KEF/KDF). The group has demanded that the WCED provide five armed security guards to each school in Khayelitsha 24 hours a day – a demand that is impossible for the WCED to meet.
Preventing learners from attending school is never an acceptable way to resolve these challenges, and we condemn this in the strongest of terms. Causing learners to lose out on valuable teaching time directly infringes on their right to a basic education.
School safety is a core priority for the Western Cape Government, and the WCED is doing everything in its power to ensure that learners and teachers are safe at school. This is something which we take seriously because every child deserves to learn in a safe environment. To this end, the WCED has worked with all stakeholders to develop sustainable responses to crime in and around schools.
We are therefore disappointed by misinformation being spread by the KEF/KDF. They have claimed that they were promised security guards by myself and the WCED. This is not true.
Here are the facts:
Crime is a serious problem on the Cape Flats, and unfortunately this often spills over into school grounds. We urge SAPS to step up their efforts to combat crime in the area, as there is only so much that schools can do to keep hardened criminals out of their grounds.
However, the WCED has neither the mandate nor the resources to take the place of law enforcement. We will continue to do everything within our power to improve the safety of learners and teachers at school, but we cannot do it alone.
The WCED has engaged with members of the KEF/KDF on repeated occasions – these engagements also included other school safety stakeholders such as SAPS and the Department of Community Safety (DOCS). During these engagements we made it clear that providing armed security guards to every school is simply not a viable option – it is neither financially possible nor educationally desirable to militarize school properties in this manner.
The WCED has allocated extra funding to schools in the area to secure school properties – this included an amount of R1 million for schools to install alarms, security gate motors, cameras and the like. Schools had to present a proposal in order to receive the funds. Almost all of the proposals arrived three months late.
We also proposed a further solution, using the Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) model, with funding of roughly R3.25 million available for this purpose. NHW groups must be vetted and accredited before they will be allowed to operate in schools. This is non-negotiable. The unaccredited structures were invited to send proposals so that they could be vetted and accredited by DoCS.
Unfortunately, and disappointingly, they did not do so timeously, and the project window closed. However, some applications have recently been received, and are being processed for approval. We look forward to working with accredited NHWs to improve security in the immediate vicinity of our schools.
Khayelitsha Site C is also one of the deployment areas for the first 500 new learner Law Enforcement Officers who took part in their official passing out parade this past Sunday. The 500 officers are part of the City of Cape Town’s Law Enforcement Advancement Program (LEAP), which is jointly funded by the Western Cape Government in line with the Western Cape Safety Plan.
We rely on schools and the community cooperating by submitting proposals for security measures, implementing access control, and creating functional safety committees with the support of SAPS, WCED and DoCS. The WCED cannot do everything on its own - it has to be done in conjunction with schools and the community.
We continue to be open to engagement on ways in which the WCED can work together with all stakeholders to improve safety at schools, within our mandate and available budget – but interrupting the education of our children can never be acceptable, and we cannot spend money we do not have.
Soundbite: Minister Schafer on Khayelitsha shutdown