The effect of gang violence on WCape schools - Debbie Schäfer

MEC says curbing the problem requires a 'whole of society' approach

Curbing gang violence requires a ‘whole of society approach’

27th October 2017

Recently there has been an increase in violence in communities within Cape Town as a result of ongoing gang warfare.

This has had a direct impact on our schools.

Of late, my ongoing concern for our learners and educators within these communities has been at an all-time high. While we are doing as much as we can as an education department to try and protect our schools, we simply do not have the legislative mandate, security manpower or budget to guarantee learner safety from gang violence.

Gang violence is depriving our children of their educational opportunities. Without proper education many of these children themselves then become involved in gang activities and continue on this destructive cycle of violence and disruption.

When our learners themselves are members of gangs, this only heightens the possibility of violence within school grounds. Earlier this month, at a Delft school, a learner was stabbed by another learner in an alleged gang related incident in a turf war on the school grounds and corridors. This is shocking and unacceptable.

And this is not a fight that we can tackle alone in education.

In my capacity as Chairperson of the Provincial Steering Committee for Strategic Goal 2: Improving Education Outcomes and Opportunities for Youth Development (PSG2), I am pleased with the progress we have made over the last few months as regards our inter-relationships between crucial national departments that are involved in the issue of safety.

Firstly, a senior official in the WCED has been appointed as Chairperson of the Priority committee on School Safety, as delegated by the SAPS Provincial Joints. This is providing an excellent platform for sharing information and better co-ordination of responses in emergencies between WCED, DOCS and SAPS, Metro Police and Law Enforcement. It is also assisting in planning pre-emptive safety related work at schools with the focus of ensuring that our limited safety resources are deployed when and where most needed.

Secondly, the National Anti-Gangsterism Strategy, as drafted by the National Intelligence Coordinating Committee, and approved by the National Cabinet Committee for safety and security, is being fully supported by the Western Cape.

We have established an Inter-Ministerial Committee which comprises the Provincial Ministers of Education, Community Safety, Social Development and Sport, Arts and Culture. Senior representatives from the South African Police Service, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Department of Justice, Correctional Services and the City Law Enforcement all form part of this Inter-Ministerial Committee. The objective of the committee is to bring together all role-players from a Local, Provincial and National sphere to discuss improved mechanisms to decrease gang-related crime, and to develop strategies to support our youth in order to prevent them from participating in gangsterism themselves. 

On Wednesday (25th October 2017) we had another productive meeting with all mentioned role-players and whilst the details are confidential, we are pleased with the participation of each of these role-players and remain confident that, with improved communication and information sharing, we will be better placed to identify areas of intervention especially in combating gangsterism.

In order to ensure that our provincial response to the National Anti-Gangsterism Strategy remains formulated in a manner true to our value of being a government responsive to the needs of communities, a follow-up consultative workshop is scheduled for 24 November 2017, with all role-players including civil society during which the content of the National strategy and the provincial response with be reported on with opportunity to comment.

I have also recently been briefed on the refinement of the school risk classification tool which has been developed in consultation with the City of Cape Town, SAPS, the WCED and DOCS.

This tool will allow us to identify and classify existing and emerging safety risks so that the relevant security infrastructure and other resources are deployed when and where most needed. The tool will provide valuable management information on enhanced safety policies required to improve safety at each school.

The tool also measures the security infrastructure needs required given the particular circumstances at the school, the leadership interventions required on safety, the strength of safety partnerships, and compliance with various safety requirements. It will also be responsive to changing security issues in communities, so we will be able to assess, in real time, which schools are at the highest risk.

We are also working together in PSG2 across the departments of Education, Social Development, Cultural Affairs and Sports and DOCS, to try and address the complex social issues that give rise to young people getting involved in gangs.

While I am under no illusion that the fight against the gangs is hindered by our severely under-resourced police stations, I am really appreciative of the commitment and drive by all these role-players to try and protect our youth.

While these engagements have sought to improve safety in and around schools and to support our youth, much must still be done.

We will continue to persist, and we will work together with all spheres of Government on improving the safety of our learners and educators in this Province.

Statement issued by Minister Debbie Schäfer, Western Cape Minister of Education, 27 October 2017