Learning from International Best Practice in School Safety
Consulate General of the United States of America, Ms Erica Barkes-Ruggles
Alderman JP Smith
Executive Director of Safety and Security, Mr R Bosman
Metro Police Chief, Wayne Le Roux
School Resource Officers
City and education officials
Ladies and Gentleman
A warm welcome to the advanced and management training certification ceremony of school resource officers.
I am delighted to be here today at this very special event.
A big thank you to the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) for conducting such informative and intensive courses.
It is critical that our school resource officers maintain an understanding of current school safety issues and trends from around the world and we are delighted to have benefited from international best practice in this regard.
I am confident that the skills and expertise imparted here will help assist our SRO's in making our schools safer and better learning environments.
Congratulations to the eight resource officers for completing the NASRO advanced training programme. In addition, I also wish to congratulate the management team for committing themselves to this unique project. This experience, together with the skills you have learnt over the course of this programme, are invaluable. I sincerely hope you share these new skills with our educators and school management teams at your schools.
It is not secret that school safety is an on-going concern and challenge for WCED.
The reality is that in the Western Cape we are faced with the scourge of gangsterism which is plaguing some of our communities. Community conflict, gangsterism and violence are in turn threatening some of our learners and schools either directly on the school premises or within the community.
We, however, want our learners to be able to work and learn in an environment that is safe and secure. While we cannot be directly responsible for every act of violence within and out of our schools we certainly can try minimise its impact by continuing to implement programmes and security infrastructure that will contribute to the on-going safety of our learners.
This is why the SRO project is so important to the WCED.
The SRO project can improve even further the existing safety initiatives at our schools, and has been aligned to the strategy of the WCED's Safe Schools Programme which focuses on:
- Crime control by modifying and enhancing school environments.
- Crime prevention by changing the attitudes and behaviour of learners and school staff; and
- Systems programmes by developing effective partnerships between schools, the communities in which they operate and other role players.
Many people don't realise that SROs are more than security guards at schools. As one can see from the course content, SROs require special training in counseling, conflict management and problem solving.
SROs can be placed in some very tough situations and this requires specific training. They also have an important role to play in creating effective partnerships between the SRO schools, SAPS and the communities in which they operate.
Partners such as this, in the fight against violence and crime, are essential if we are to improve safety at our schools.
While it is still too early to determine the overall success of the SRO pilot project we can however tell that the presence of SROs may have contributed to an apparently low incidence of fighting or assault and drug use at the six schools at which they serve over the last five months.
I am therefore looking forward to the final evaluation of the pilot project later this year, which will determine whether this programme is a success and whether it should be expanded in other schools.
I am confident that this will be the case and I would like to thank the City of Cape Town for their on-going co-operation and commitment to this project, as well as NASRO, for supporting, informing and teaching us how best to deal with school safety in our schools.
I would like to end off by honouring and thanking the SRO officers before me today who work in very difficult and extreme situations. We admire and value their efforts in trying to create and secure a stable teaching and learning environment for our learners.