Safety at schools around the country remains a big concern. In the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan, many schools are reporting for example drug dealing, bullying, sexual abuse and gangsterism as part of the daily challenges. An unsafe school environment of this nature cannot be a conducive learning environment at the same time. If both teachers and learners feel unsafe in or around their schools, it will eventually result in low academic performance with all its negative consequences both for the underperforming individual as well as the community and society at large.
It is high time to bring the concerned stakeholders and schools together to find solutions for the growing challenges around schools safety.
The Safer Schools Network was officially launched on the Thursday, 28th July 2016, in the NMBM’s Department of Education.
More than 70 participants followed the invitation, amongst them were principals and deputies from 32 schools, including all 15 hotspot schools of the National Department of Basic Education Ministerial Intervention Plan, representatives of the NMB Department of Safety and Liaison, chairpersons of the local Community Policing Forums, SAPS, the District as well as the Provincial Safer School Coordinator of the Department of Education and the Department of Social Development.
From NGO side three organisations were present, who are working on the increase of school safety in the Nelson Mandela Bay: PCRD together with the General Motors SA Foundation, who jointly implement the National School Safety Framework (NSSF) in several schools in Port Elizabeth, Uitenhague and Humansdorp. And Masifunde Learner Development who are implementing a youth-driven school safety approach within the YSC project in more than 32 high schools.
Sometimes it seemed not easy for the two facilitators, Michael Bendle and Jonas Schumacher, to guide the participants who came from totally different backgrounds through the three participative brainstorming sessions. But Michael and Jonas were a great team and succeeded to bring all ideas together and cluster them into different areas, discussed them with the plenary and that in only two hours time!
The biggest concerns were around
- loss of values / morality of learners and their parents
- alcohol and drug abuse, drug dealing on or nearby school premises
- bullying, sexual abuse
- cell phones (theft, cyber crime, how to manage cell phones in class etc.),
- infrastructure of schools (fences, schools next to taverns, etc.) ,
- There was definitely a wish for more presence of SAPS in the schools.
The participants had already some ideas on measures to increase school safety and announced the following topics to discuss in the next Safer Schools Network Meetings:
Concerning violence and crime prevention the school officials voted for the Youth for Safer Community Project in their school (all), conflict management courses for teachers and learners (14), how to implement NSSF in a more practical way, how to fight bullying, activities against alcohol and drug abuse, how to involve parents and the community (5). The need of police presence in school premises should also be discussed in one of the next meetings (8 schools).
All participants have agreed to meet again at the end of September 2016 in order to take up one or two of the topics of interest.
The success factor of this meeting were definitely the present YSC facilitators , who assisted the organizing team in a most professional way, by receiving and registering the guest, assisting technically and contently the facilitation team and decorating the big hall in a most attractive way. Another success factor was the support of the District Safety Coordinator Mr. Graham Papier, who constantly supported the whole process of the preparation and realization of that event.
The first Safer Schools Network Meeting started big, the following meetings must now keep the pace.