New chapter for Gauteng’s troubled schools

Soweto – The tide is about to turn for Gauteng schools that have been plagued by drugs, theft and carrying of weapons, with authorities tightening the screws on the perpetrators of these social evils.

Education MEC - Barbara Creecy

The provincial Department of Education has introduced a school patrollers programme to ensure that these institutions are safe and secure, and fulfil their primary purpose of learning and teaching.

Nearly 1 500 patrollers with accredited SAPS training will work day and night to secure and safeguard about 1 500 underperforming schools, no fee schools and high risk schools, where parents normally can’t afford to pay for private security.

The patrollers, who will be deployed in the schools where they reside, will control access and safeguard school premises, search cars and visitors, report all incidents threatening learners and employees, work closely with school guards and protect ICT equipment.

They will be equipped with two-way radios, uniforms, metal detectors and other equipment and will be connected to a police vehicle to request backup when needed.

They will also have a general supervisor who will manage them and reduce the workload on school principals. The supervisors will also keep records of attendance registers, pay sheets and workers’ contracts for the patrollers.

Unveiling the programme at Dikgabane Primary School in Chiawelo on Thursday, Education MEC Barbara Creecy said the launch of the programme follows a series of meetings she had with school principals in 2009, where the issue of school safety was the main concern raised.

After the School Safety Strategy was approved by provincial legislature last year, Creecy said 540 schools were fenced and they would continue to fence another 100.

However, Creecy acknowledged that fencing of schools was just the minimum, and the department needed people on duty to look after the schools 24 hours a day.

“We don’t want a situation where our educators and learners don’t feel safe at school… [we] want them to focus 100 percent on the curriculum,” Creecy said, adding that the long term plan is to have 6 000 patrollers.

She warned learners to ensure that knifes, drugs, alcohol and guns do not find their way into the school premises.

“Don’t put those things inside your pockets… they contribute to disruptions in the schools.”

Community Safety MEC Nonhlanhla Mazibuko assured learners that their lives would now be protected when coming to and from school. She also encouraged them to report abuse and people bringing illicit things to school.

Speaking on behalf of Provincial Commissioner Mzwandile Petros, Lieutenant Nkanyiso Maphanga said the programme would help the police as they had a number of challenges regarding school safety.

“We are committing ourselves and we are going to own the project and see that it works.”

Dikgabane school principal Mieta Mtshali said: “We are going to teach and learners are going to learn, and rest assured the patrollers are going to do a sterling job.”

Learner Siphesihle Magaga said the programme will protect them from thieves. “No one will break into our schools anymore, even at night… We are safe,” said an elated Magaga.

Source – BuaNews By Gabi Khumalo, October 20, 2011