Addressing the Safety Needs of Our Schools, Educators and Learners
Media Statement by Donald Grant, Minister of Education
One of the main objectives of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) is to make the department a more caring and responsive organisation.
An important element of this is to be readily available in order to address the needs of our schools, educators and our learners.
The WCED has various contact centres that play an important role in helping us to meet this objective. One such contact centre is the WCED's Safe Schools hotline.
The hotline is available for schools, educators and learners to report all school crime and abuse and aims to contribute to a safe and crime-free school environment.
The Safe Schools call centre can be reached at the tollfree number 0800 45 46 47, and provides immediate, free, online communication to learners, parents and teachers needing help, guidance or information regarding education-related safety issues.
The call centre is open from Monday to Friday, 07:00 to 16:00, and is situated at the WCED's Head Office. It provides a service in the three official languages of the Western Province - Afrikaans, English and Xhosa - and serves as a coordinating centre from which referrals are made to appropriate agencies and from which vital information is disseminated to the relevant parties.
This year, the Safe Schools call centre has received a total of 9 890 calls, 1 727 of which required further assistance and support. Of the 1 727 calls, 496 calls dealt with reports on burglary and vandalism, 292 on crime related incidents, 255 on abuse such as bullying, and 219 for counselling and psychological support.
In 2011, a total of 12 267 calls were made to the Safe Schools call centre, of which 3 235 of the calls required further support or assistance. The majority of these calls dealt with burglary and vandalism (784), crime related incidents (670) and Governing Body enquiries (622). The majority of Governing Body enquiries mainly dealt with disciplinary matters such as misconduct.
When members of the public call the call centre, they immediately receive online debriefing during crisis calls and, during non-crisis calls, are directed, when necessary, to the counselling agencies of the WCED, non-governmental organisations and community organisations.
In some instances, the call centre will require the support of the South African Police Services (SAPS) or the applicable emergency service. For instance, during an incident of gang violence and/or trespassing, the call centre will ensure that the relevant authorities are alerted to deal with gang intimidation and threats, gang shootings and gang killings in and around the school.
The call centre will also provide immediate assistance in the event of any traumatic incidents, such as suicides, hijackings, missing persons and the discovery of weapons or drugs on the school premises.
When an incident of crime, such as burglary, theft or physical assault, is reported to the call centre, the WCED will offer the school advice on the procedures that need to be followed and will inform the relevant authorities.
The WCED takes child abuse very seriously and all abuse calls are handled sensitively and with care. Initial counselling or guidance, based on the Abuse No More Protocol, is given when necessary. Child abuse can include physical or emotional abuse, sexual harassment or rape, corporal punishment, racial discrimination and substance abuse.
The call centre also provides information or advice on, among others, teenage pregnancies, HIV/AIDS, school fees and the registration of learners.
The call centre is linked with an extensive network of service providers that support the work of the call centre. This includes inter- and intra-dependent non-governmental organisations, community organisations and faith-based organisations. These organisations contribute to the Safe Schools' efforts to create a safe learning environment at our schools, and are valued for their time, commitment and support.
The WCED has sent a circular to all schools encouraging them to make use of this service.
We want to make our school environment safe. The school community can help us achieve this goal by reporting all incidents of school violence, vandalism, crime and any other form of abuse to the Safe Schools Call Centre at our toll-free number.
Our learners, educators and parents are not alone. The WCED is always here for you to provide support and counselling.